World Cup Group D: Iceland to upset Argentina?

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The World Cup gets underway shortly with 32 nations battling it out for the Jules Rimet trophy.

We’re keeping you up-to-date with the goings-on before the group stages with in-depth previews of each foursome.

Today’s focus is on Group D as Argentina, Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria clash in an ultra-competitive pool.

Argentina are the favourites to qualify in top spot, but there’s danger lurking amongst the other three sides.

Check out the key info…

Argentina

FIFA Ranking: 5.

Manager: Jorge Sampaoli

Qualification: La Albiceleste left it late, but a Lionel Messi hat-trick in the final game against Ecuador sealed their place in Russia.

Star player: Leo Messi.

How far will they go? The 2014 finalists are amongst the favourites but that’s mainly down to having Barcelona superstar Messi in the line-up. Sampaoli doesn’t look like he has the required talent to go all the way. But a quarter-final will be the least they expect.

Odds to win World Cup: 9/1

Fun fact: In the first ever World Cup final between Uruguay and Argentina, the referee John Langenus only agreed to officiate just before the game, and did so on the condition that a boat be ready at Montevideo harbour, in case he needed to make a quick escape.

Iceland

FIFA Ranking: 22.

Manager:  Heimir Hallgrimsson

Qualification: Iceland qualified top of their group, two points clear of Croatia, and five ahead of Ukraine back in third. Easy as you like.

Star player: Gylfi Sigurdsson.

How far will they go? It’s difficult to say. The conditions should suit the Nordic nation. And they’ll be able to sit back and counter the likes of Argentina and Croatia. The knockout stages aren’t beyond them.

Odds to win World Cup: 150/1

Fun fact: 10% of the Icelandic population went to France to support their team at Euro 2016. Similar is expected in Russia.

Croatia

FIFA Ranking: 20.

Manager:  Zlatko Dalic

Qualification: Finished behind Iceland in qualification and needed a play-off win over Greece to book their spot.

Star player: Luka Modric.

How far will they go? It looks a competitive group and the Croatians will need to overcome their qualifying foes Iceland if they are to make it into the last-16.

Odds to win World Cup: 33/1

Fun fact: Davor Suker was the top scorer at the 1998 World Cup and is the only Croatian on the FIFA list of the 125 greatest footballers of all time – chosen by Brazil’s Pele.

Nigeria

FIFA Ranking: 48.

Manager: Gernot Rohr

Qualification: Nigeria were the first African side to qualify for the summer showpiece, going unbeaten against Cameroon, Zambia, and Algeria.

Star player: John Obi Mikel/Victor Moses

How far will they go? The Super Eagles have it all to do to qualify for the knockouts. They’re the lowest ranked side in the group and will rely mostly on power and pace to get there.

Odds to win World Cup: 150/1

Fun fact: Nigeria have played Argentina more than any team since the Super Eagles made their debut at the World Cup.

All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication

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Cian Carroll

Starting life as a football columnist for his local paper in Dundalk, Cian has written for a number of media outlets with pieces published in The Birmingham Mail and Spain’s El Mundo Deportivo. A lover of football, GAA, boxing, rugby and MMA, he’s a big Aston Villa and Dundalk fan. He can be regularly spotted on various mountain tops.