MOSCOW, RUSSIA – In the build up to the World Cup, Britwatch Sports will look at every group and give our predictions on who will finish where. Today we look at Group B’s ‘Group of Death’ which features Lionel Messi’s Argentina, Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria
June 16th: Argentina vs Iceland (14:00)
June 16th: Croatia vs Nigeria (20:00)
June 21st: Argentina vs Croatia (19:00)
June 22nd: Iceland vs Nigeria (16:00)
June 26th: Nigeria vs Argentina (19:00)
June 26th: Croatia vs Iceland (19:00)
A poor qualifying campaign saw Argentina come within a hairs length of missing out on the world cup entirely, but thanks to a Lionel Messi masterclass Albicelesteare heading to Russia in search of their third World Cup triumph and their first in 32 years.
2018 might be the last time we see one of the greatest players ever strut his stuff on the biggest stage in world football. Messi has not won a World Cup yet, the one thing missing from his amazing resume. The Argentines boast an awesome attack with Messi, Sergio Aguero, and Paulo Dybala amongst the immense attacking talent.
However their issues defensively and in the middle of the park cannot be ignored. All the world class talent comes up front, making for a very imbalanced side. And despite the depth up top, they are reliant on Messi at times. Out of all the big nations, Argentina look the most vulnerable and with good sides in this group, they may end up missing out on the top spot if their defence does not hold up.
After being the story of the 2016 European Championships, Iceland will bring their grit, determination and thunder claps to test themselves on the biggest stage of them all for the first time in the nation’s history. Despite their success in France though, this is still a Cinderella story for this small nation to savour.
What got Iceland to the dance is their organisation and spirit to win every game. This is a team that is tough to break down and when they get the ball can be clinical and dangerous. They will likely concede possession to all their rivals in Group D, but their ability to stick to the plan may come in handy. Problems will come when asked to keep the ball, and against the attacking talent of Croatia and Argentina it will prove difficult to hold them off. Iceland’s best chance is to beat Nigeria and hope to squeak a draw against the top two sides in the group, but despite a spirited effort their lack of potency going forward will likely seem them exit at the first stage.
Qualifying: Second in UEFA Group I (Beat Greece in playoff)
As is the case with almost every major tournament, Croatia go in as one of the dark horse nations that could surprise a few. They have not gone better than their third place finish in 1998 and to be asked to replicate that success may be a bridge too far. This is a team that is capable of going deep though and can not be slept on.
Croatia have a midfield that even top nations will envy. Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic are both world class centre midfielders, and Mateo Kovacic has shown huge signs of promise at Real Madrid. Then you have Ivan Perisic on the left who is coming off a great season at Inter Milan. The rest of the squad is rather average – in my opinion – though so their success or failure will lie on how well teams can keep their midfield quiet. This is a side that finished behind Iceland in qualifying, but when it comes to major tournaments there is something about Croatia that sees them come alive, and of all the sides in this group, they have the best chance of beating Argentina.
If the World Cup was decided on the best kit then Nigeria would walk to the title. But in a tough group and an overall lack of quality, the Super Eagles will have an uphill task of qualifying beyond the round of 16.
There is some good mix of youth and experience in this side. Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho provide dynamism going forward whilst the experience of Premier League title winners John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses will be critical to their chances. However outside a handful of players, Nigeria struggle, particularly in defence. Against the top nations they will find themselves being opened up and the midfield will be stretch and struggle to control the game. This is a side that could possibly sneak through if they play at their best, but the quality of Argentina and Croatia will be too much, plus they may find Iceland a difficult team to open up.
Prediction: Fourth Place
The XXI FIFA World Cup Starts on June 14, as Russia host Saudi Arabia in the tournament’s curtain-raiser in Moscow at 4pm UK time.
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