2018 FIFA World Cup – Group D Preview & Betting Tips

The following is a team-by-team preview of Group D in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Futures betting tips are also provided. The group consists of Argentina, Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria.

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Other group previews:

 

Argentina

Argentina

  • FIFA World Ranking (as of June 7): 5
  • Rank by Elo rating (as of June 11): 5
  • Squad:
    • Coach: Jorge Sampaoli
    • Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Manchester United), Wilfredo Caballero (Chelsea), Franco Armani (River Plate)
    • Defenders: Gabriel Mercado (Sevilla), Cristian Ansaldi (Torino), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), Federico Fazio (Roma), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax), Marcos Acuna (Sporting Lisbon)
    • Midfielders: Javier Mascherano (Hebei China Fortune), Eduardo Salvio (Benfica), Lucas Biglia (AC Milan), Giovani Lo Celso (Paris Saint-Germain), Ever Banega (Sevilla), Manuel Lanzini (West Ham), Maximiliano Meza (Independiente), Angel di Maria (Paris Saint-Germain), Cristian Pavon (Boca Juniors)
    • Forwards: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
  • Best World Cup performance: Winners (1978, 1986)
  • 2014 World Cup: 1st in the group stage, lost in the final
  • 2010 World Cup: 1st in the group stage, knocked out in the quarter-finals
  • Qualifying: Third place in the CONMEBOL qualifiers with a 7-7-4 record.
  • Bookmaker odds: (sourced from bet365)
    • Win group: 1.61
    • Reach knockouts: 1.14
    • Fail to reach knockouts: 5.50
    • Win World Cup: 10.00
  • Analyst predictions: :
    • Shaka Hilsop (ESPN): 1st in the group, knocked out in the quarter-finals
    • Craig Burley (ESPN): 1st in the group, knocked out in the semi-finals
    • Paul Mariner (ESPN): 1st in the group, knocked out in the quarter-finals
    • Tom Carnduff (SportingLife): 1st in the group, knocked out in the semi-finals
    • SBNATION: 1st in the group
    • AccuScore win group probability: 76.5%
    • AccuScore qualify from group probability: 92.9%
  • Good News:
    • Boast some world class players in the squad, most notably five-time Ballon d’Or winner, Lionel Messi. Messi won the Golden Ball award (presented to the best player) at the 2014 World Cup.
    • They are the strongest team on paper in Group D by some margin, with no other team ranked higher than 20th in the world.
  • Bad News:
    • Had an unconvincing qualifying campaign during which they used three different managers.
    • Face the burden of expectation of winning a group that is actually tougher than first appears.
    • Were defeated 6-1 by Spain in a friendly earlier in the year and have only played once since then, which was against Haiti.
    • Manager Jorge Sampaoli continues to experiment with different styles and formations as he searches for what works best for Argentina.
    • Their preparations have been disrupted by injuries.

 
Iceland

Iceland

  • FIFA World Ranking (as of June 7): 22
  • Rank by Elo rating (as of June 11): 24
  • Squad:
    • Coach: Heimir Hallgrímsson
    • Goalkeepers: Hannes Halldorsson (Randers), Runar Runarsson (Nordsjaelland), Frederik Schram (Roskilde)
    • Defenders: Kari Arnason (Aberdeen), Holmar Eyjolfsson (Levski Sofia), Rurik Gislason (Sandhausen), Sverrir Ingason (Rostov), Hordur Magnusson (Bristol City), Birkir Saevarsson (Valur), Ragnar Sigurdsson (Rostov), Ari Skulason (Lokeren)
    • Midfielders: Birkir Bjarnason (Aston Villa), Samuel Fridjonsson (Valerenga), Johann Gudmundsson (Burnley), Aron Gunnarsson (Cardiff City), Emil Hallfredsson (Udinese), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton), Olafur Skulason (Karabukspor), Arnor Traustason (Malmo)
    • Forwards: Jon Bodvarsson (Reading), Alfred Finnbogason (Augsburg), Albert Gudmundsson (PSV), Bjorn Sigurdarson (Rostov)
  • Best World Cup performance: N/A
  • 2014 World Cup: Absent
  • 2010 World Cup: Absent
  • Qualifying: Won Group I with a 7-1-2 record in the UEFA Confederation qualification.
  • Bookmaker odds: (sourced from bet365)
    • Win group: 13.00
    • Reach knockouts: 3.75
    • Fail to reach knockouts: 1.25
    • Win World Cup: 201.00
  • Analyst predictions: :
    • Shaka Hilsop (ESPN): 4th in the group
    • Craig Burley (ESPN): 3rd in the group
    • Paul Mariner (ESPN): 4th in the group
    • Tom Carnduff (SportingLife): 2nd in the group, knocked out in the Round of 16
    • SBNATION: 4th in the group
    • AccuScore win group probability: 6%
    • AccuScore qualify from group probability: 29.7%
  • Good News:
    • Made the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 during which they knocked out England.
    • Head coach Heimir Hallgrímsson has been at the helm since 2013 and has been in football management since 1993.
    • Have fantastic team chemistry and spirit.
    • Finished ahead of fellow Group D side Croatia in their UEFA qualifying group.
  • Bad News:
    • Only scored 16 goals during 10 games of qualifying, which is the fewest of any European team that topped their group.
    • Have no World Cup finals experience.
    • Preparations have been hampered by injuries. Kolbeinn Sigthorsson will miss the entire tournament while Gylfi Sigurdsson, Aron Gunnarsson and Alfred Finnbogason all picked up pre-tournament injuries and might struggle for match fitness.
    • Conceded a high number of goals and went 0-1-3 in their pre-tournament friendlies: Mexico 3-0 Iceland, Iceland 1-3 Peru, Iceland 2-3 Norway, Iceland 2-2 Ghana.

 
Croatia

Croatia

  • FIFA World Ranking (as of June 7): 20
  • Rank by Elo rating (as of June 11): 17
  • Squad:
    • Coach: Zlatko Dalić
    • Goalkeepers: Danijel Subasic (Monaco), Lovre Kalinic (Gent), Dominik Livakovic (Dinamo)
    • Defenders: Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Domagoj Vida (Besiktas), Ivan Strinic (Sampdoria), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool), Sime Vrsaljko (Atletico Madrid), Josip Pivaric (Dynamo Kiev), Tin Jedvaj (Bayer Leverkusen), Duje Caleta-Car (Red Bull Salzburg)
    • Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona), Mateo Kovacic (Real Madrid), Milan Badelj (Fiorentina), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter), Filip Bradaric (Rijeka)
    • Forwards: Mario Mandzukic (Juventus), Ivan Perisic (Inter), Nikola Kalinic (Milan), Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim), Marko Pjaca (Schalke), Ante Rebic (Eintracht)
  • Best World Cup performance: Third place (1998)
  • 2014 World Cup: 3rd in the group stage
  • 2010 World Cup: Absent
  • Qualifying: Runners up in Group I with a 6-2-2 record in the UEFA Confederation qualification. Defeated Greece 4-1 on aggregate in the UEFA Second Round playoffs.
  • Bookmaker odds: (sourced from bet365)
    • Win group: 3.25
    • Reach knockouts: 1.50
    • Fail to reach knockouts: 2.62
    • Win World Cup: 34.00
  • Analyst predictions: :
    • Shaka Hilsop (ESPN): 3rd in the group
    • Craig Burley (ESPN): 4th in the group
    • Paul Mariner (ESPN): 2nd in the group, knocked out in the Round of 16
    • Tom Carnduff (SportingLife): 3rd in the group
    • SBNATION: 3rd in the group
    • AccuScore win group probability: 8.8%
    • AccuScore qualify from group probability: 38.7%
  • Good News:
    • Performed well in Euro 2016. They won a group that contained Spain and lost in extra time to eventual winners Portugal in the Round of 16.
    • The squad boasts a world-class midfield featuring players from Real Madrid, Barcelona and Inter Milan. The squad has big names up-front as well.
    • During 10 games of qualifying they only conceded 4 goals.
  • Bad News:
    • Haven’t made the knockout stage of a World Cup since 1998. Their last three World Cups have seen them eliminated at the group stage.
    • The consensus is that the side was less than the sum of its parts during qualifying. They finished behind Iceland in their group and only scored 15 goals in 10 games, which is the fewest of any European side that qualified for the tournament.

 
Nigeria

Nigeria

  • FIFA World Ranking (as of June 7): 48
  • Rank by Elo rating (as of June 11): 43
  • Squad:
    • Coach: Gernot Rohr (Germany)
    • Goalkeepers: Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Enyimba), Daniel Akpeyi (Chippa United), Francis Uzoho (Deportivo La Coruna)
    • Defenders: William Troost-Ekong, Shehu Abdullahi (Bursaspor), Leon Balogun (Brighton) Kenneth Omeruo (Chelsea), Bryan Idowu (Amkar Perm), Chidozie Awaziem (FC Porto), Elderson Echiejile (Cercle Brugge), Tyronne Ebuehi (Benfica)
    • Midfielders: Mikel Obi (Tianjin Teda), Ogenyi Onazi (Trabzonspor), John Ogu (Hapoel Be’er Sheva), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City),Oghenekaro Etebo (CD Feirense), Joel Obi (Torino)
    • Forwards: Odion Ighalo (Changchun Yatai), Ahmed Musa, Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Simeon Nwankwo (FC Crotone), Victor Moses (Chelsea)
  • Best World Cup performance: Round of 16 (1994, 1998, 2014)
  • 2014 World Cup: 2nd in the group stage, knocked out in the Round of 16
  • 2010 World Cup: 4th in the group stage
  • Qualifying: Winner of Group B with a 4-1-1 record in the CAF Third Round.
  • Bookmaker odds: (sourced from bet365)
    • Win group: 11.00
    • Reach knockouts: 3.25
    • Fail to reach knockouts: 1.33
    • Win World Cup: 201.00
  • Analyst predictions: :
    • Shaka Hilsop (ESPN): 2nd in the group, knocked out in the Round of 16
    • Craig Burley (ESPN): 2nd in the group, knocked out in the Round of 16
    • Paul Mariner (ESPN): 3rd in the group
    • Tom Carnduff (SportingLife): 4th in the group
    • SBNATION: 2nd in the group
    • AccuScore win group probability: 8.7%
    • AccuScore qualify from group probability: 38.6%
  • Good News:
    • Have recent World Cup experience having played in both the 2010 and 2014 tournaments. Made the Round of 16 in 2014.
    • Qualified convincingly, winning a group that contained current African champions Cameroon.
  • Bad News:
    • Conceded 6 goals in 6 games during the CAF Third Round.
    • By far and away the lowest ranked team in Group D.
    • It appears that the first-choice goalkeeper will be 19-year old Francis Uzoho, who has very little experience.
    • The side is heavily reliant on Leon Balogun, John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses. Their form will drop off notably if any of these players get injured.
    • Went 1-1-3 in pre-tournament friendlies.

 

Betting tip:

On paper this looks a tough group, but none of the four teams come into the tournament firing on all cylinders. Of the four sides it looks like Iceland have lost the most momentum since qualifying. They are one of those teams that arguably would have fared better had the World Cup been played in 2016 or 2017. With a population of about 335,000 they don’t have a great deal of depth and injuries have put them on the back foot, as evident by their poor results in pre-tournament friendlies. They will have to hope that the players they do get back from injury can find match fitness quickly. I expect Iceland will be at their most vulnerable early on, when key players like Gylfi Sigurdsson will be short of match fitness. Argentina face them first, so I expect Argentina will win that match comfortably, which will settle the nerves and set them up nicely for a push to win the group.

Back Argentina to win Group D at 1.68 (Betfair)

 

Notes

 

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