We proceed our 2018 World Cup group previews with Group D today. Argentina definitely jumps off the web page as a heavy favourite, however Croatia and Nigeria might be seen as sleeper picks to make some noise. After which there’s plucky little Iceland, which has developed right into a authentic European soccer energy during the last two years. This might wind up being the vaunted Group of Death.
Earlier 2018 World Cup Group Breakdowns:
Group A, Group B, Group C
KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH
What’s there left to say about Lionel Messi? He’s arguably the best participant ever, however the one factor lacking from his resume is a World Cup triumph. He got here shut in 2014, as he led Argentina to a second-place end.
Messi, a star for FC Barcelona, is La Liga’s all-time chief in objectives (383) and assists (149) and has led his membership to 4 Champions League titles and 9 La Liga crowns. He’s gained the Ballon d’Or 5 occasions and gained the Golden Ball as the perfect participant on the 2014 World Cup.
At 30, this is perhaps Messi’s final probability to hoist the World Cup. He has already briefly retired from worldwide competitors as soon as, so this can be his final hurrah. All eyes will probably be on him and Argentina as they attempt to make a magical run.
If Croatia goes to make a run in Russia, it wants Luka Modric to play just like the all-world midfielder he’s. The Actual Madrid stalwart is 32, so that is probably his ultimate probability on the World Cup. Whereas his profession has been stellar, main his nationwide aspect on a deep run this summer time would cement his legacy as one of the best participant in his nation’s historical past.
Modric has been named Croatian Footballer of the Yr a document-tying six occasions, has been on the UEFA Group of the Yr twice (2016, 2017), and is the one Croatian participant to ever be named to the FIFA World XI. He’s gained three consecutive Champions League titles with Actual Madrid and was named La Liga’s greatest midfielder in 2014 and 2016 and was named midfielder of the yr within the Champions League in the course of the 2017 season.
Modric has excellent imaginative and prescient and is a playmaker for others, utilizing his passing and quickness to place opponents on their heels. He can play centrally or drop deep to tackle a defensive position for Actual, however anticipate him to attempt to do every part for his nationwide aspect in Russia. In his third and, doubtless remaining, World Cup, search for Modric to put all of it on the road.
Gylfi Sigurdsson isn’t a reputation that simply rolls off the tongue, however you need to in all probability study it. If Iceland goes to make noise in Russia, Sigurdsson should have a stellar event.
Sigurdsson has forty four Premier League objectives to his credit score over seven seasons with Swansea, Tottenham Hotspur and now Everton. In fifty five nationwide staff caps, the attacking midfielder has scored 18 objectives for his nationwide staff. He’s probably the most recognizable participant Iceland will placed on the sector in its first World Cup this summer time. It is sensible then that he’s been named Icelandic Footballer of the Yr seven occasions, together with six years in a row.
Sigurdsson has a knee damage that has everybody apprehensive just some weeks earlier than the beginning of the World Cup. We’re assuming he’ll wind up enjoying as a result of it’s onerous to consider he’ll miss his nation’s first ever journey to the World Cup. This can be the one probability the 28-yr-previous ever will get.
World Cup Finals Appearances: 15
Greatest Finishes: Champions in 1978 and 1986, Runners-up in 1990, 2014
FIFA World Rank: 5
Argentina is the clear favourite to win the group, however the squad has loads of inquiries to reply. Whereas Messi continues to be the most effective participant on the earth, lengthy-time stalwarts like Javier Mascherano, Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain aren’t as harmful as they was. As an alternative, Messi and Manchester Metropolis’s Sergio Aguero should discover an understanding shortly and lead from the entrance.
A participant to observe for La Albiceleste is ahead Paulo Dybala. The 24-yr-previous scored 22 objectives in Serie A for Juventus this season and has been in exceptional type. In the meantime, Nicolas Otamendi will probably be charged with main a again line that was torched by Spain 6-1 in a March pleasant.
Messi is the story, however the remainder of the roster must step up if Argentina needs to reside as much as the sky-excessive expectations being heaped upon it.
Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Photographs
Earlier World Cup Finals Appearances: four
Greatest End: Third place in 1998
FIFA World Rank: 18
Croatia wanted a playoff win over Greece to succeed in the World Cup, however must be a troublesome out now that the workforce made it in.
As talked about above, Luka Modric is among the greatest gamers on the earth, and he has some assistance on the roster. Juventus ahead Mario Mandzukic, Actual Madrid midfielder Mateo Kovacic, Inter Milan ahead Ivan Perisic and Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic would be the spine of a group that will probably be a sleeper decide to win this group.
Modric and firm have a troublesome process in what’s a really strong group. If Croatia goes to outlive the group stage, the workforce has to dominate within the midfield. Fortunately, the Croats have the most effective on the planet patrolling that space of the pitch.
Earlier World Cup Finals Appearances: zero
Greatest End: N/A
FIFA World Rank: 22
Iceland was the darling of Euro 2016, as a nation of simply 330,000 individuals reached the quarterfinals. Now, it’s the smallest nation to have a group within the World Cup, as Strakamir okkar make their first-ever look on the earth’s largest sporting occasion.
As talked about above, Sigurdsson is a large piece to the staff’s puzzle, however this can be a tightly-knit squad that has been enjoying collectively for some time. One thing really bonds this staff and it all the time appears to play far above its functionality. This can be a case the place the entire is bigger than the sum of its elements.
It’ll take so much to flee this group, but when Iceland can by some means earn a draw with Argentina in Recreation 1, one thing magical may occur. Keep in mind, Iceland truly edged Croatia to win their World Cup qualifying group, so a repeat of that isn’t out of the query.
PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Pictures
Earlier World Cup Finals Appearances: 5
Greatest Finishes: Spherical of sixteen in 1994, 1998 and 2014
FIFA World Rank: forty seven
The Tremendous Eagles enter their sixth World Cup with a painfully low world rating and quite a bit to show. However, as we’ve discovered prior to now, anticipating Nigeria to bow out simply within the group stage is silly.
The staff’s assault is formidable, that includes Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi, Chelsea’s Victor Moses and Leicester Metropolis’s Kelechi Iheanacho. Thrown in 25-yr-previous Ahmed Musa, and also you’ve acquired one of many stronger, athletic teams going ahead within the 2018 World Cup.
The Nigerians have been the primary African staff to punch their ticket to Russia, as they simply gained their qualifying group. They even smoked African Cup of Nations winner Cameroon four-zero in a lopsided affair. That outcome proved the Tremendous Eagles can be a troublesome workforce for anybody to deal with, they usually definitely have a shot at advancing to the knockout spherical.
June sixteen: Argentina vs. Iceland (Moscow), 9 a.m. ET/6 a.m. PT
June sixteen: Croatia vs. Nigeria (Kaliningrad), three p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT
June 21: Argentina vs. Croatia (Nizhny), 2 p.m. ET/eleven a.m. PT
June 21: Nigeria vs. Iceland (Volgograd), eleven a.m. ET/eight a.m. PT
June 26: Iceland vs. Croatia (Saint Petersburg), 2 p.m. ET/eleven a.m. PT
June 26: Nigeria vs. Argentina (Rostov-on-Don), 2 p.m. ET/eleven a.m. PT
ALL ODDS TO WIN GROUP VIA ODDSCHECKER (PERCENTAGE CHANCE TO ADVANCE IN PARENTHESES)
ARGENTINA eight/eleven (87%)
CROATIA thirteen/5 (sixty five%)
NIGERIA eleven/1 (28%)
ICELAND sixteen/1 (20%)