2018 FIFA World Cup football – Group D preview and betting odds
- Upon first glance, Argentina look clear favourites as the winners of Group D.
- A team boasting arguably the world’s best player in Lionel Messi will always stand a great chance of progressing.
- It would be foolish, however, to write off the other teams in the group after impressive qualifying rounds.
- We preview all four nations, including Croatia, Nigeria, and Iceland.
Argentina – The 2014 World Cup runners up will be looking to go one better at this year’s tournament in Russia. If their qualification is anything to go by, however, they could be a huge disappointment. Even though they finished credibly behind Uruguay and Brazil, Argentina lost four and drew seven out of their 18 games.
They also had to rely on three goals from the brilliant Lionel Messi to scrape through in their final match. Nonetheless, expectations will still be high regarding the South American team. Coach Jorge Sampaoli will be hopeful he can inflict the attacking mentality that served him well while he was in charge of Chile. In truth, it shouldn’t be hard to implement that philosophy into a team boasting the likes of Mauro Icardi, Angel di Maria, Sergio Aguero, Javier Pastore, and Gonzalo Higuain. It is now three final losses in a row for these players, and that will surely be added motivation as search for glory.
Argentina are favourites to top Group D at 13/20 with 888Sport, while they are 1/8 with Paddy Power to qualify. If you can envisage Messi lifting the trophy, then they can be found at 9/1 with BoyleSports.
Key Player: Lionel Messi – Having already won 5 Balon d’Or’s, Lionel Messi is arguably the greatest footballer ever. At 30 years of age, it could be his last World Cup, and he’ll be desperate to make an impression.
Iceland – Iceland were the surprise package of Euro 2016 where they progressed from a group containing Portugal, and knocked out England. They were eventually stopped in the quarter-finals by France, but they’ll be confident of causing more upsets in their first World Cup.
Heimir Hallgrimsson’s men have already proven that their last tournament wasn’t a fluke. Qualification from a group that contained Croatia, Turkey, and Ukraine was no mean feat. Their counter-attacks, tremendous work ethic, and set-pieces should prove problematic for any team. Iceland may have the third average age of the tournament, but they’ve got a lot of underrated players in their squad. There’s no doubt they will play well above their level, and that’s always a great recipe for a dark horse.
Iceland may least favourite to progress with bookmakers, but there could be value in the 11/4 with Betway to qualify. They are 7/1 with Paddy Power to win the group, and 250/1 with BetVictor to cause a major shock.
Key Player: Gylfi Sigurdsson –The Everton playmaker hasn’t enjoyed the best of seasons in the Premier League. However, he’s certainly Iceland’s most dangerous player, and his skill and set pieces means he’ll have a huge role to play if his nation are to progress.
Croatia – It’s hard to predict what Croatia will turn up to a major tournament. In the last 20 years, they have finished third in a World Cup, and twice reached the quarter-finals of the European Championships. They have, however, also produced some terrible displays that has seen them crash out of the group stage.
Their victory over Spain at Euro 2016 was one of the displays of the tournament, but they were brought back down to earth when they exited to Portugal. Qualification for this year’s tournament wasn’t exactly straightforward either. Coach Ante Cacic was sacked after losses to Turkey and Iceland, and a draw with Finland. Zlatko Dalic then took over with one game left, beating Ukraine to set up a playoff match with Greece.
On the field, they possess high quality talent, especially in midfield with the likes of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, and Mateo Kovacic pulling the strings. But, off the field lies their real problems. Corruption allegations involving administrators and players have left morale at a low, and it could unfortunately show in their performances. Croatia are second-favourites at 9/4 to top Group D, while they are a short 8/15 to qualify. They can be found at 28/1 with William Hill to win the competition.
Key Player: Luka Modric – At 33 years of age, Modric is perhaps going to be competing at his last World Cup. The Real Madrid midfielder has such creativity and awareness on the ball that he’s a true joy to watch. His position in FIFA’s best 11 of 2017 explains it all.
Nigeria – This will be Nigeria’s sixth World Cup appearance after they impressively finished top of a tough qualifying group. Zambia, Cameroon, and Algeria would have certainly fancied their chances of making the plane to Russia. The Super Eagles, however, lost just once during the campaign and look Africa’s best hope of success in the summer.
Even though Nigeria have the youngest team in the tournament, they have some much-needed experience too. 30-year-old John Obi Mikel is the leader of the side, however, boss Gernot Rohr has a long history of managing teams from the continent. His one loss in over two years certainly suggests Nigeria will be hard to beat.
Even though Group D looks competitive on paper, Rohr’s men will be confident of progressing. Especially when you consider they thrashed rivals Argentina 4-2 back in November. If they are to be successful, look out for the attacking Premier League trio of Alex Iwobi, Ahmed Musa, and Kelechi Iheanacho who have the talent to score past any team. The Super Eagles are 11/1 with Unibet to finish top of their group, while they are 3/1 to qualify. Head over to 888Sport if you fancy them to lift the trophy, where they can be backed at 200/1.
Key Player: Alex Iwobi – The 21-year-old will be Nigeria’s biggest attacking threat and has the potential to be a game changer.