World Cup Group D Preview

By Samuel Fuller
Jun. 03, 2018

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Penner-USA TODAY SportsBrad Penner-USA TODAY SportsBrad Penner-USA TODAY SportsBrad Penner-USA TODAY SportsBrad Penner-USA TODAY SportsBrad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

ARGENTINA

Best XI:

GK: Nahuel Guzman, 32, Tigres (Mexico)

LB: Marcos Rojo, 28, Manchester United (England)

LCB: Nicolas Otamendi, 30, Manchester City (England)

RCB: Federico Fazio, 31, Roma (Italy)

RB: Eduardo Salvio, 27, Benfica (Portugal)

CDM: Javier Mascherano, 33, Hebei (China)

LCM: Ever Banega, 29, Sevilla (Spain)

RCM: Lucas Biglia, 32, AC Milan (Italy)

CAM: Paulo Dybala, 24, Juventus (Italy)

LS: Gonzalo Higuain, 30, Juventus (Italy)

RS: Lionel Messi, 30, Barcelona (Spain)

Analysis: Lionel Messi is one of the two best players on the planet, and once again, the success of Argentina rests on his shoulders. He isn't lacking talent in his supporting cast, as Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain start next to him, with Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria as incredible bench options. The defense will obviously be a weak spot, especially the goalkeeping department, but with Leo Messi captaining the side, winning Group D should be easy. Getting back to the World Cup Finals? That's a different story, one Messi has to personally write for his homeland.

CROATIA

Best XI:

GK: Danijel Subasic, 33, Monaco (France)

LB: Domagoj Vida, 29, Besiktas (Turkey)

LCB: Vedran Corluka, 32, Lokomotiv (Russia)

RCB: Dejan Lovren, 28, Liverpool (England)

RB: Sime Vrsaljko, 26, Atletico Madrid (Spain)

LCM: Ivan Rakitic, 30, Barcelona (Spain)

CM: Mateo Kovacic, 24, Real Madrid (Spain)

RCM: Luka Modric, 32, Real Madrid (Spain)

LW: Ivan Perisic, 29, Inter Milan (Italy)

ST: Mario Mandzukic, 32, Juventus (Italy)

RW: Andrej Kramaric, 26, Hoffenheim (Germany)

Analysis: If there's any year for Croatia to make a run, it's 2018. Luka Modric captains a squad featuring elite midfielders in Ivan Rakitic and Mateo Kovacic, as well as formidable attackers Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic. As long as their talent translates well as a team, they should move on comfortably as the second-best team in Group D. If Mandzukic can convert on the chances he receives from Perisic, Modric, Kovacic and Rakitic; this Croatian team could be a giant-slayer moving beyond the group stage.

ICELAND

Best XI:

GK: Hannes Thor Halldorsson, 34, Randers (Denmark)

LB: Ari Skulason, 31, Lokeren (Belgium)

LCB: Ragnar Sigurdsson, 31, Rostov (Russia)

RCB: Sverrir Ingason, 24, Rostov (Russia)

RB: Birkir Mar Saevarsson, 33, Valur Reykjavik (Iceland)

CDM: Aron Gunnarson, 29, Cardiff (England)

LM: Birkir Bjarnason, 30, Aston Villa (England)

RM: Johann Berg Gudmundsson, 27, Burnley (England)

CAM: Gylfi Sigurdsson, 28, Everton (England)

LS: Alfred Finnbogason, 29, Augsburg (Germany)

RS: Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, 26, Reading (England)

Analysis: No one is expecting Iceland to make a run like they did in Euro 2016, but Iceland does have some quality players. Gylfi Sigurdsson can hold his own as an attacking midfield against most opponents, but the rest of his supporting cast wouldn't crack most other team's starting XI. They're going to have to band together and channel their inner Cinderella again to try and advance out of Group D.

NIGERIA

Best XI:

GK: Francis Uzoho, 19, Deportivo Coruna (Spain)

LB: Bryan Idowu, 26, Amkar Perm (Russia)

LCB: Kenneth Omeruo, 24, Kasimpasa (Turkey)

RCB: Leon Balogun, 29, Mainz (Germany)

RB: Shehu Abdullahi, 25, Bursaspor (Turkey)

LCM: Wilfried Ndidi, 21, Leicester City (England)

CM: Mikel John Obi, 31, Tianjin Teda (China)

RCM: Joel Obi, 27, Torino (Italy)

LW: Alex Iwobi, 22, Arsenal (England)

ST: Kelechi Iheanacho, 21, Manchester City (England)

RW: Victor Moses, 27, Chelsea (England)

Analysis: Like most other Nigeria squads, speed-first attacking play is their bread and butter. Kelechi Iheanacho, Ahmed Musa and Odion Ighalo are all formidable options at striker, while Alex Iwobi and Victor Moses are versatile Premier League wings. Nigeria's World Cup fate lies on their poor defense. Bryan Idow and Shehu Abdullahi aren't natural outside backs, and 19-year-old keeper Francis Uzoho only has 4 caps to his name. It's hard to see Nigeria beating a Leo Messi-led Argentina squad, and both Iceland and Croatia have talented attackers as well. Even with an above-average attacking campaign, the odds of Nigeria making it past the group stage aren't good.