It’s often said of Lionel Messi that he cannot be compared with football greats of the past unless he leads Argentina to glory on the international stage. That’s clearly unfair given the levels the Barcelona forward has reached in his career but he’s as desperate as any of his fellow countrymen to secure World Cup glory in Russia.

It all begins on 16 June for Messi and his Argentina teammates when they get Group D underway against Iceland in Moscow. The bookies expect Argentina to qualify with little fuss but this is arguably the most competitive group and Croatia, Nigeria and Iceland will all make things tough for the Argentines.

Argentina To Make Hard Work of It

Despite having talented players in key positions all over the pitch, Argentina fans are far from confident about their team’s chances of success in Russia. Jorge Sampaoli’s appointment was generally well received thanks to the good job he did at Chile but things have quickly turned sour for him.

Some believe that Sampaoli is struggling with the weight of expectation that comes both with managing your national team and being the custodian of such a talented group of players. He certainly seems to be having problems selecting his squad with fans struggling to understand his blind spots around Paulo Dybala and Mauro Icardi.

Things came to a head during the shambolic 6-1 friendly defeat against Spain at the end of March. Time is running out for Sampaoli to come up with a coherent strategy for the World Cup. He can only rely so much on individual talent and while he has plenty of world class players, Argentina may just be the disappointment of the 2018 World Cup. As you can see with our odds comparison, Argentina are the clear favourites to win Group D but don’t be surprised if they fail to reach the knockout stage at 9/2 with Bet365.

Nigeria Ready to Reach Their Potential

The hope among Argentina fans is that the defeat against Spain proves the kick up the backside that the team needs. Nigeria fans will be hoping their friendly loss to Serbia does something similar even if they’re starting from a more positive base.

The Super Eagles will head to Russia with a very exciting young team. Lead by captain John Obi Mikel (the only player aged over 30 who is sure to start) Nigeria have pace, power and creativity in their ranks. That’s a combination that is sure to worry every team who they cross paths with while the experience and nous of manager, Gernot Rohr, is another real positive.

As with Iceland and Croatia, Nigeria will believe their toughest test of Group D will come against Argentina. However, the key game of the group could well be Nigeria’s first against Croatia. If either team wins what looks like a tough contest to predict in Saint Petersburg they will put themselves in a very strong position to qualify and potentially win the group.

Nigeria look to have enough quality to come out on top in a one off match against any other side at the World Cup but there is an argument to be made that Croatia are the most well rounded side in Group D. Yes, they had to go through the playoffs to qualify for the World Cup but many Croatia fans put their problems down to the negativity of Ante Cacic. Since replacing him with the more forward thinking Zlatko Dalic, Croatia have started getting the best out of a team blessed with one of the best midfields in international football.

Croatia’s game with Nigeria could be a World Cup classic. It gives both teams the chance to show just how good they are and that the pre-tournament odds don’t accurately reflect their quality. You can take advantage of the big prices around by betting on Croatia finishing first and Nigeria second at 16/1 with Bet365.

Iceland to Be Outclassed Despite Valiant Battle

Iceland and their fans won the hearts of football fans everywhere two summers ago in France. Their qualification for the World Cup was celebrated around the world as it means at least three more chances to see their fans and this scrappy team who form a unit that is much more than the sum of its parts.

The problem that Iceland have is they are no longer the unknowns tearing up the form book. Their Group D opponents will make specific plans for them and could just outclass Heimir Hallgrimsson’s men. This is a tough draw for Iceland who could well finish bottom of Group D.


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