2018 World Cup Group D Future Odds and Predictions
The fourth group of the World Cup is bound to be a fascinating one, despite having a massive favorite like Argentina. Argentina struggled hard in order to book their ticket, and with Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria in the group, there is no telling what's going to happen. Croatia is quite solid and has a lot of superstars, while Iceland and Nigeria are more than capable of pulling upsets.
Argentina has gone through a ton of adversities to finally book their ticket to their 17th World Cup over the years. Chile has destroyed them in two consecutive finals of the Copa America, which led Lionel Messi to resign from the national team temporarily. However, he did come back for what appears to be the last World Cup in his prime as he is now 30 years old. Argentina struggled hard in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, where they were sitting outside the qualification spots for a long time. They did eventually shape up their act and ultimately finished at the 3rd spot (7-4-7), but they also took advantage of other results to do so. Argentina will now look for their third World Cup title, having captured the World Cup in 1978 and 1986 with Diego Maradona's "Hand of God". Coach Sampaoli will probably use a 4-2-3-1 formation, and he will heavily rely on Lionel Messi. Other than that, Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Angel Di Maria (PSG), Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus) and Javier Mascherano are going to back up Messi, along with the newest generation of Lamela, Lo Celso, Banega, and Paredes.
Iceland is making their debut in a World Cup this summer, but they have been making great strides of improvement in recent years. They are currently sitting at the 18th spot of the FIFA country rankings and finished at the top of their qualifying group (7-2-1) that also featured Croatia. Iceland is a cohesive group and does have a couple of star players to rely upon, and they showed us in the 2016 EURO Cup that they are dangerous. Their primary goal in this tournament is to go past the group stage, but they will have to defeat Croatia who is their main competitors for the 2nd spot. Iceland hasn't been excellent in their recent friendlies in the United States, where they fell to Mexico (0-3) and Peru (1-3). Star midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson will undoubtedly be the man to watch, while Iceland will try to threaten the opposing defenses with his sharp passes. Moreover, Iceland is somewhat favored by the climate in Russia, as they are used to playing in similar conditions.
Croatia does have their way of finding themselves in the final stages of major competitions, despite struggling in the qualifiers. This time around they had to play qualification playoff matches against Greece, whom they destroyed by 1-4 at home before holding out for a goalless draw on the road. Croatia is currently sitting at the 15th spot of the FICA country rankings and has already participated in five World Cups. Their best positioning was the 3rd place in 1998 in France, but they have failed to go through the group stage in their other four attempts. They have some solid players in their roster, like Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona), Mario Mandjukic (Juventus) and Daniel Subasic (Monaco), and they will surely fight for the 2nd spot of the group. A drawing point against Argentina would set this group on fire though.
Nigeria is coming into this World Cup looking to repeat what they did in 2014 in Brazil, where they finished at the 2nd spot of their respective group. Oddly enough, they were drawn into Argentina's group back then as well. This will be their sixth participation in a World Cup, and their best placement has been the 16th spot, a spot they have captured three times (1994 USA, 1998 France, and 2014 Brazil). They are always eliminated in the round of 16, but they are traditionally hard to beat. Nigeria finished at the top spot of their respective group in the African qualifiers (4-0-2), scoring 12 goals in the process, against just four conceded. What made their qualification huge was the fact that they were in a group with Cameroon and Algeria, two very strong sides. Nigeria will heavily rely on Chelsea's Victor Moses, Leicester's Wilfred Ndidi and Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi.
2018 World Cup Group D Predictions
Argentina is the big favorites to top the group, but Croatia can really pull an upset here and finish first (+275). Should that happen, we can go with Croatia to finish first and Argentina 2nd in that exact order (+325). If Croatia can hold Argentina to a draw, then they should be able to defeat the other two teams in the group, so Croatia to get precisely 7 points is at a solid +500.