Every World Cup draw produces a so called group of death and the 2018 finals has been no different. The term group of death does not mean people are going to die but what it does mean in footballing terms is that losing games in this group will cause major qualification problems, as there is no wiggle room if you want to get to the next phase. Group D consists of Argentina, Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria, now that is some line up, four quality teams. The group is wide open in my opinion and not even group favourites Argentina are guaranteed a safe passage through to the next phase. The group is made even more intriguing with the fact that Croatia and Iceland were in the same qualifying group to get to these finals, so the match between them will be tight. No matter what the outcome of this group will be, I am sure these group of matches could possibly produce some of the best football in the early stages of this tournament.
Argentina are without a doubt one of the big power houses of World football, they have won the World Cup twice and have finished runners-up on three separate occasions. Over the years they have produced some magnificent players and I am not just talking about Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, their production line of talent goes much further than those two special players. Qualifying for this tournament was not plain sailing for the Argentinians and they had to win their last match of the qualifying campaign against Ecuador to book their ticket for the big show. In that game it was a Lionel Messi hat trick that got the job done and now that they have got to Russia anything is possible. Going into the finals, manager Jorge Sampaoli knows he can not solely rely on Lionel Messi to get him out of trouble in every game and he needs the other players around the maestro to shine. Two players to look out for going into the tournament are Angel Di Maria of PSG and Juventus striker Paulo Dybala. Di Maria is around a long time and he is a solid player for both club and country, always prepared to put in a good shift when on the field. Dybala in my opinion is a little gem and if he gets good service during the tournament he could be a contender for the leading goal scorer. I have seen him play a lot this season in Italy and he is the type of player who will steal a goal out of nowhere for you. If you are to believe the seeding process for the games, Argentina will qualify as group winners but I am not so sure, especially looking back at their qualifying campaign.
Iceland are appearing at the World Cup Finals for the very first time and after their heroics in the 2016 European Championships nobody will underestimate them. They will also bring with them the ” Viking Chant ” which they did with their fans at the end of each game in 2016. It was something new to see and it showed to the outside world how much the fans meant to them. They have qualified for the finals by topping their qualification group which included Croatia, Ukraine, Turkey, Finland and Kosovo. It was a tremendous feat to win that group as only a few years ago the men from Iceland would have been the team in that group were everyone would have expected to pick up all six points from both of the games they would have had to play against the men from Reykjavik. A lot of credit has got to go down to former manager Lars Lagerbeck from Sweden, who installed a new belief in the Icelandic team. Two players to look out for going into the tournament are Everton,s Gylfi Sigurdsson and Aron Gunnarsson of Cardiff City. Sigurdsson is a smashing creative midfielder and his opponents need to be warned, if you give this fella a chance he will punish you. Gunnarsson is the captain of the squad and takes no prisoners, he can play right back or is just as comfortable in central midfield. One thing to keep an eye out for at the end of every game will be the chant, which will be led by their captain and who knows, they could be ready to ruffle a few more teams feathers in Russia.
Croatia only became a nation in its own right in 1990 with the break up of Yugoslavia after a horrible war, one that we should never forget though. They have already appeared in four World Cup Finals and that is understandable with the amount of talent they have produced over the years. They qualified for Russia through the play offs by thrashing Greece four one on aggregate. They were in a group which included Iceland and that rivalry will be renewed in Russia. They travel to Russia with possibly one of the best talented squads to ever board a plane from their home soil, it will all depend like everything does in football if the eleven players on the field can gel. Two players to look out for going into the tournament are captain Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic both players have had a very successful season with their clubs Real Madrid and Juventus. Modric is key to everything that happens to Croatia going forward and if he is not stopped he can cause all sorts of problems to the opposition. Mandzukic is a good old style centre forward and if Modric the magician, can make chances for him he will take them. The game of the group in my opinion will be Croatia v Argentina and this will be a match not to be missed.
The fourth member of this group are Nigeria who are known around the world as the Super Eagles. This will be the sixth time that they have qualified for the finals and they could be a dangerous side if allowed to play. They qualified through to Russia by winning a group that also included Zambia, Cameroon and Algeria. They topped the group although a three nil defeat was awarded against them when they fielded a suspended player in the away game against Algeria. Two players to look out for when the competition kicks off are Ahmed Musa of Leicester City and Chelsea,s Victor Moses. Musa made history at the 2014 World Cup Finals when he became the first Nigerian to score more than one goal in the finals. Moses played for England at youth level but switched back to Nigeria in 2012. As a player he reminds me of the old style wing back who raids down the right hand side whenever he gets the chance but is not afraid to do his share of the defending either, it is always a great attribute to a player when he can work in both halves defending and attacking. Nigeria will be a joy to watch in the finals and look out for their physical presence as they do like to get stuck in. May the other three teams be warned.
Argentina v Iceland 16/6/2018
Croatia v Nigeria 16/6/2018
Argentina v Croatia 21/6/2018
Nigeria v Iceland 22/6/2018
Iceland v Croatia 26/6/2018
Nigeria v Argentina 26/6/2018