Group D is one of the strongest groups at the World Cup. Could Argentina exit the tournament early? This World Cup Group D preview contains all of the expert information you need to make your Group D predictions.
For an overview of the potential squads and starters for each team read Pinnacle's World Cup predicted lineups.
World Cup Group D prediction: What do the odds say?
Elo World Ranking: 4
Previous best performance: Winners (1978, 1986)
Top scorer in qualifying: Lionel Messi (7 goals)
Key player: Lionel Messi
Odds to advance from
Odds to win World Cup: 10.070*
Blessed with some of the World’s finest attacking players Argentina have been on the brink of success on a number of occasions over the past four years.
After finishing as runners-up in Brazil the Argentines went on to lose in two consecutive Copa America finals, earning them a perhaps undeserved reputation as chokers on the big occasion. They also struggled throughout qualifying and had to rely on a Messi inspired turnaround against Ecuador to avoid missing the tournament altogether.
A 6-1 defeat to Spain in the absence of Messi was hardly ideal preparation for the tournament and there are concerns that Argentina
The genius of perhaps the World’s best player also carried them through the tournament in Brazil. In the final defeat to Germany Messi touched the ball just once every two minutes (he averages 97.2 touches per game when playing for Barcelona) whilst his supporting cast in attack failed to find the net, another case of Argentina failing to find a match winner other than Messi.
This is a strange situation considering the ability of the other Argentine attackers. Gonzalo Higuaín holds the single-season goal record in Serie A whilst Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria have scored vital goals at club level. Not to mention attackers who may not even make the squad such as Paulo Dybala and Mauro Icardi.
Argentina’s biggest issues stem from an inability to get the ball from deep into Messi in areas where he can be at his most threatening. In that 2014 final Lucas Biglia and Javier Mascherano did not offer the range of passing Messi’s Barcelona teammates are able to provide. Higuaín was also uncharacteristically wasteful in front of goal.
It is the deep midfield positions that need to be improved and the addition of Ever Banega and young PSG playmaker Giovani Lo Celso to their central midfield should go some way towards solving that problem. If a more creative presence in midfield prevents a frustrated Messi from dropping too deep then Argentina will be much improved.
This is a tough group for the Argentinians and they will need to gel quickly to avoid potential disaster. Iceland
Argentina to win under 6.5 points could be favourable bet at 1.961* given their struggles and the strength of opposition. Even with a couple of
Elo World Ranking: 17
Previous best performance: Third (1998)
Top scorer in qualifying: Mario Mandzukic (5 goals)
Key player: Luka Modric
Odds to advance from
Odds to win World Cup: 31.000*
The Croatians are often tipped as tournament dark horses and have the talent to shock the World’s best on their day. They were excellent in the Euro 2016 group stages,
A tough draw has not helped the Croatian’s World Cup chances and they would probably not have chosen to face Iceland, who defeated them in European qualification, in what could be a pivotal final game in Group D.
The quality of the Croatian’s central midfield is well known. Luka Modric is awarded a little more freedom than he is a club level alongside the experienced Ivan Rakitic and the energy of Marcelo Brozovic.
In attack, AC Milan’s Nikola Kalinic competes with Hoffenheim number nine Andrej Kramaric for the striking spot when Mario Mandzukic brings his unique take on the wing position to the national side. Mandzukic can also operate as the lead attacker. Add Ivan Perisic to the creativity in midfield and the Croatians will possess plenty of goal threat in Russia.
The defence is solid but does not compare to the quality of Croatia’s attack. It can occasionally be exposed from setpieces and counter-attacks. This was their undoing in Brazil where the hosts and Mexico profited from some poor defending. The Croats shipped six goals across those defeats.
Dejan Lovren and Domagoj Vida will need to find some consistency to prevent the dead ball expertise of Iceland, who scored a vital goal from a corner in their qualifying fixture, or the pace of Nigeria from threatening their place in the round of 16.
Despite those question marks over their defence and a lack of significant squad depth (which may hinder them as the tournament progresses), the Croatians should be good enough to qualify from what looks to be a tight group. This is especially true if they can take points from a struggling Argentina side.
Backing Croatia to advance from the group seems a sensible option considering the strength of their first eleven but it could all be still to play for in this group come that final game against Iceland.
Elo World Ranking: 43
Previous best performance: Round of 16 (1994, 1998, 2014)
Top scorer in qualifying: Victor Moses (3 goals)
Key player: Wilfried Ndidi
Odds to advance from
Odds to win World Cup: 212.514*
This youthful Nigerian side qualified impressively from a group containing traditional continental powerhouses Cameroon and a strong Algerian team.
After a period of rebuilding Nigeria can field a direct attacking team with a lot of
The Nigerians are also strong in midfield where John Obi Mikel offers composure and creativity which was often wasted when he was restricted to a deeper role at former club Chelsea.
Wilfried Ndidi, in particular, is pivotal to Nigeria’s play. He has the energy to cover for their youthful attacking players and will need to protect an inexperienced Nigerian defence.
The November friendly win over group rivals Argentina demonstrated all that is good and bad about this Nigerian team. They were dominated early in the game and found themselves two down with the help of a bizarre goalkeeping error. A moment of magic from Iheanacho turned the game around and Naija ran rampant in the second half to achieve a credible win. They have endured a run of poor results in their pre-tournament friendlies, however, losing to England and the Czech Republic.
All of this makes the West Africans a tough team to predict. Their projected points total of 2.5 looks a little low considering they have a high ceiling. They are likely to win a game if they find
Elo World Ranking: 22
Previous best performance: First World Cup
Top scorer in qualifying: Gylfi Sigurðsson (4 goals)
Key player: Gylfi Sigurdsson
Odds to advance from
Odds to win World Cup: 212.510*
World Cup debutants Iceland have made a habit of upsetting the odds. Despite possessing a population of just over 300,000 people the Iceland national side
They continued overachieving during European qualification to reach their first ever World Cup, finishing ahead of Croatia in Group I.
The Icelandic team is well known for its solid defensive setup and set-piece expertise. Corners, free kicks and even throw-ins won around the opposition penalty area provide dangerous goalscoring opportunities opposition defences will do well to foil.
Whilst they may not possess the quality of the favourites in this group the Icelandic squad still boasts players from top-tier leagues. Burnley’s Johann Gudmundsson has had a great start to life in the Premier League whilst Alfred Finnbogason scored 12 goals in 22 Bundesliga appearances for Augsburg this season.
Their key player is clearly Gylfi Sigurdsson who has won the last seven Icelandic Footballer of the Year awards. Much of Iceland’s game plan is built around Gylfi’s set-piece delivery and he is their most creative player in open play. In terms of individual contribution to a team’s success Sigurdsson is amongst the most influential players in the tournament.
Unfortunately for Iceland, their talisman is in a race against time to be fit for the World Cup after picking up a knee injury. They will need him to be at full fitness to have a realistic chance of progressing beyond the group stage.
Even with Sigurdsson in the side Iceland are unlikely to repeat their Euro heroics on the World stage. A much tougher group draw combined with no longer being a surprise package should see them exit at the first stage. They are available at 1.291* not to qualify for the next round and would need to cause perhaps their biggest surprise yet to advance.