Argentina is easy favorite, but who else will advance from Group D
A look at the teams that make up Group D of the Russia 2018 World Cup:
FIFA world ranking: 5
Last World Cup: 2014
Best World Cup finish: Champions, 1978, 1986
How qualified: Finished third in South American qualifying tournament.
Key players: F Lionel Messi, MF Angel Di Maria, F Sergio Aguero
Itâs a fact: Argentina has been held scoreless for 217 consecutive minutes in its last three World Cup finals, with all three games coming against Germany. It also lost the last two Copa America finals, both to Chile, without scoring a goal.
The skinny: Sure Argentina will field one of the deepest, most talented tea ms in the tournament. But the storyline surrounding La Albiceleste will be all about Lionel Messiâs pursuit of the one prize that has eluded him, a World Cup title. Messi carried Argentina to the final four years ago, winning the Golden Ball as the tournamentâs outstanding player but losing the World Cup to Germany in extra time. Messi will be 31 by the final in Russia and he clearly needs more than a consolation prize if he hopes to one day be remembered as the outstanding player of his generation.
FIFA world ranking: 18
Last World Cup: 2014
Best World Cup finish: Third place, 1998
How qualified: Beat Greece in a European playoff.
Key players: MF Luka Modric, MF Ivan Rakitic, F Mario Mandzukic
Itâs a fact: An unofficial national team played Croatiaâs first game nearly a year before the country declared its independence in 1991, introducing the teamâs iconic checkerboard jersey inspired by the countryâs coat of arms.Advertisement
The skinny: Croatiaâs roster reads like a European all-star team, chock full of players from some of Europeâs biggest teams. Three of them played in last monthâs Champions League final. The midfield alone â" boasting Modric, Rakitic, Ivan Perisic, Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic â" is so good, manager Zlatko Dalic canât get everyone on the field at the same time. But Croatia rarely plays with a solid identity or tactical approach and that leaves it less dangerous collectively than its players are individually.
FIFA world ranking: 22
Last World Cup: First appearance
Best World Cup finish: First appearance
Key players: MF Aron Gunnarsson, MF Gylfi Sigurosson, D Ragnar Sigurdsson
Itâs a fact: One-fifth of Icelandâs population reportedly requested tickets to the World Cup.
The skinny: The world may be watching and cheering for Iceland, and if it is, itâs likely to nod off while doing so. Because while Iceland has the tournamentâs most compelling backstory, it also has a plodding, unattractive style of play that puts as many as 10 men behind the ball. The attack is often limited to cautious counterattacks and set pieces, on which Iceland, with as many as eight starters taller than 6 feet, is exceptional. That makes every free kick and corner kick a scoring opportunity. But Iceland canât control the ball and if it loses possession repeatedly in its own end, defensive breakdowns are inevitable.
FIFA world ranking: 47
Last World Cup: 2014
Best World Cup finish: Round of 16, 2014, 1998, 1994
How qualified: Won African qualifying group.
Key players: F Kelechi Iheanacho, MF Victor Moses, F Alex Iwobi
Itâs a fact: Nigeria is the only African nation that qualified for both the 2014 and 2018 World Cups.
The skinny: Nigeriaâs time to shine on the world stage will come â" just not now. The Super Eagles have played in five of the previous six World Cups but have never gotten past the round of 16. They may not even get that far this time. Never mind. The team has talent and pace in a young trio of Iwobi, 22; Iheanacho, 21; and 21-year-old Wilfred Ndidi, who is battling a hamstring injury. Nigeria is particularly potent on counters, where it is not afraid to commit numbers forward, and the p layersâ flair and pace make them fun to watch. Just donât expect them to win.
June 16: Argentina vs. Iceland in Moscow; Croatia vs. Nigeria in Kaliningrad.
June 21: Argentina vs. Croatia in Nizhny Novgorod; Nigeria vs. Iceland in Volgograd.
June 26: Nigeria vs. Argentina in Saint Petersburg; Iceland vs. Croatia in Rostov-on-DonSource: Google News Argentina | Netizen 24 Argentina