FIFA World Cup Group D - Preview
Group D is one of the more interesting groups in the World Cup field. With so much parody within the 32 team field, this foursome offers an explosive array of nations, all combined together for one singular goal - wining the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Argentina will obviously draw the majority of the attention in the table. However, the 2-time World Cup winners will find their path to the Round of 16 a bit more challenging than expected.
Croatia, Nigeria and Iceland all impressed during qualifiers and are laced with players who perfect their crafts within the largest leagues in the world.
Overlooking any of the countries to advance, would be a total disservice to their overall accomplishments. "La Celeste y blanca" must not let their guards down in any match they participate in, as this Group has great potential for a upset when it's all said and done.
Before World Cup action begins, I'll break down each of the Groups looking for value, betting angles and offering predictions for advancement. Group D features Argentina and Lionel Messi, along with a highly competitive assortment of nations, who can easily stake their claim to the second advancement spot in the table.
Group D - Preview
The Icelandic side hold the distinction of the smallest country to ever qualify for the World Cup. After a wonderful run during the 2016 Euros, the tiny nation officially placed itself in the worlds spotlight. They then proceeded to run through European qualifiers, locking up a spot in the field of 32.
Heimir Hallgrimsson has been a true miracle worker during his time as manager. The head man also holds the title of dentist in his homeland, making his role with the team that much more interesting.
Hallgrimsson has been in charge of nurturing a golden generation of football players in his nation. Now a part of the exclusive field in Russia, the Nordic decision maker will have a whole country following his every tactical move along the way.
Iceland have routinely played out of a 4-4-2 formation, but due to injuries within the squad, the minnow side have also converted to a 4-5-1 during their run to Russia. A switch in alignment from match to match can never be ruled out, as a lack of overall quality within the 23 man roster could cause such tactical changes.
Gylfi Sigurdsson highlights the Icelandic attack, the Everton man produces his best overall performances while wearing his Countries crest. Sigurdsson is technically gifted with the ball at his feet, offering up tantalizing service into the box, while saving his best for Direct Free Kick situations.
Kolbeinn Sigthorsson is a often injured danger man and the Nantes Striker has found staying on the pitch consistently a true challenge. If he is truly fit by the start of the tournament, the Icelanders own an added threat in the final third.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Alfred Finnbogason are also key components to the front-line attack. Like many of the Iceland National team members, the duo play in the largest leagues in Europe, verifying they have the abilities to compete with the best players in the world on any given day.
Iceland will field a large majority of their starting lineup from the Euros 2016, so familiarity of playing with one another for a vast amount of years should surely play to their advantage. This tiny nation could once again prove many of the pundits wrong and the larger countries who may once again overlook them during this process.Odds To Advance Out Of (Round D) +1200 / 13 / 12/1
This traditional African power makes their way back to the world's footballing stage. The Super Eagles have been a part of this massive event in 6 of the last 7 World Cup tournaments, and will now send a squad of players who grace the largest pitches in Europe on a regular basis.
Gernot Rohr was assigned in 2016 to guide the Super Eagles to Russia. After several years of struggling to qualify for the African Cup of Nations, the German head man reestablished their confidence, and guided them through qualifiers with the slimmest of margins.
Rohr has only recorded two loses since his appointment, bringing back a more defensive approach, with a calculated counter attacking philosophy, which has worked to perfection since its inception.
Alex Iwobi, Victor Moses, Kelechi Iheanacho and Mikel John Obi headline the Nigerian front-line attack. Based within a formidable 4-3-3 alignment, the hopes of making a deep run on Russian soil depends on the quality of play provided by this talented quartet.
Nigeria must always garner a large amount of respect from their fellow participants. This side can truly strike fear when out in open field situations, with creative runs and blistering pace down their wings. This nation should be looked at as a legitimate contender to represent Group D in the Round of 16.Odds To Advance Out Of (Round D) +950 / 10.5 / 19/2
The Croatians have propelled themselves as a true power in Europe, with a full array of stars through out their roster. Nothing less than a place in the Round of 16 would be considered a major disappointment.
Zlatko Dalic found himself as the Head Coach with only two days remaining in Qualifiers, after Ante Čačić was removed from his duties due to a run of poor form.
Dalic is the 3rd head-man to take over this turbulent National Team within the last six years, with a whirlwind of controversy constantly hoovering over the Federation. A respectable showing in Russia could help resolve some of the fractures within the organization.
The main architects in the "Vatreni" attack lie in the Midfield, La Liga stars Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic create many of the opportunities for the Croatian danger men.
Modric and Rakitic have played on the biggest stages in the world, with Real Madrid and Barcelona. The platform will not be to much for the talented partnership. Expect many of the successes that come to the National Team to ride on the experiences and creativity of these Croatian legends.
Ivan Perisic, Andrej Kramaric and the irreplaceable Mario Mandzukic will provide much of the goal scoring threats within the Blazers 4-2-3-1 formation. The tandem have accounted for 8 Goals as National Team participants, so keep these names in mind when focusing on Croatia going forward in attack.
Croatia are a real wildcard in the overall World Cup format. With a squad littered with high profile players who perfect their crafts with the largest teams in the world, it would not be a shock to many to see this nation make a significant run in this years tournament.
At the same time, with all the distractions that surround this particular team, flaming out in the Group stage would also not be a huge surprise. Keep Croatia in mind if you are looking for a substantial long-shot with a real opportunity to lift the trophy in July.Odds To Advance Out Of (Round D) +250 / 3.5 / 49/20
The Argentines make the trip to Russia, having almost not made the field of 32. This proud nation had interesting qualifiers, ultimately prevailing on the final day with a world class performance by their true genius player.
Jorge Sampaoli was recruited to lead this powerful nation back to prominence. Failing to win a World Cup title since 1986, "La Celeste y blanca" feel they have their man to restore their traditional winning ways on the largest stage in football.
Sampaoli though has had his issues with finding the correct system to play within, using a 4-2-3-1 and a 3-4-3 at times. We are still unclear of exactly what look to expect from Argentina in their first match on June 16th.
Lionel Messi will enter Russia as the largest star in the competition. The Barcelona man has experienced massive success during his time playing for the club, but his International experiences have often been a huge disappointment.
Messi, unlike any other player in the field, carries the heaviest burden to lift his squad during his time on the pitch. The best player in the world often receives unfair criticisms and unfortunately the "Flea" has let those critiques effect his International career.
Argentina's fellow national team members must learn to play within the system, and not just watch Messi as they look for him to create everything on the pitch, which has been a underling issue during the the Barca man's time in the starting eleven.
The White and Sky Blues will travel with a plethora of world class talent throughout their squad, with the likes of Sergio Aguero, Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuaín and Ángel di María, just name a few.
A top-notch supporting cast has been assembled around Messi, so there should be no excuses as to what Sampaoli has at his disposal. The real question will always come down to if these team members can find their way within the plan of attack, and make a real impact playing alongside arguably the best player to ever have graced the pitch.
Argentina are the undisputed favorites to advance to the Round of 16, having made the finals in Brazil only 4 years ago, only to come up short to Germany, the foundation now has been laid for a repeat run towards their ultimate goal.
The Argentines get 10/1 odds to win the World Cup, which are a fair investment to make considering their true quality and overall class possessed within the roster.Odds To Advance Out Of (Round D) -150 / 1.67 / 67/100
Group D - Prediction
Group D drew a strong assortment of nations, and to say any team could progress would be an understatement, thus giving great value on teams 2-4 as an Investment option.
Argentina should find their way past the Group stage. With Lionel Messi in the starting eleven, and the motivation to finally get his first World Cup title, you would expected a spirited effort to lift "La Celeste y blanca" past this competitive field.
The remaining countries in the Group is where it get's extremely interesting. Croatia on paper should make their way through, but with the unstable foundation within their national team, distractions could play a major role in Russia this summer.
Nigeria are a true threat, and with their German leader spear-heading the tactical philosophies, this athletic side can strike fear in their opposition within a tournament format.
While this unpredictable Iceland side has the type of squad to grab points each time they take to the pitch, and after their run in the Euro's two season's ago, placing a small investment on them to progress would not be a terrible choice.