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Group D: Argentina, Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria – Martin Keown's World Cup guide

Group D: Argentina, Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria – Martin Keown's World Cup guide

By Martin Keown for the Daily Mail

Published: 11:44 EDT, 13 June 2018 | Updated: 11:44 EDT, 13 June 2018

The four-year countdown is over, the World Cup finally kicks off on Thursday and it promises to be yet another scintillating tournament.

Group D contains Argentina, Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria.

Sportsmail's MARTIN KEOWN gives his rundown of each team in Group D, including the manager, the man to watch out for, their strength and their biggest weakness.  

ARGENTINA

FIFA ranking: 5 Odds: 10-1

World Cup best: Two-time winners (1978, 1986)

THE BOSS: Jorge Sampaoli

It says a great deal that the former Chile manager is at the World Cup and they are not. Sampaoli, who led the Chileans to the last 16 in 2014 and won the Copa America the following year, has been in charge of his home country since 2017. 

THE STAR: Lionel Messi

Time is running out for Messi, who turns 31 during the tournament, to win football’s biggest prize. The Barcelona forward heads to Russia in fine form, finishing as Europe’s top scorer with 45 goals this season. He is pure class. 

THE PROSPECT: Giovani Lo Celso

Deep-lying midfielder, 22, with a good passing range who became a fixture in PSG’s treble-winning side. 

KEY STRENGTH

When you have forwards such as Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Paulo Dybala, you are always going to stand a great chance. 

BIGGEST WEAKNESS

The same cannot be said for the defence. Javier Mascherano now plays in China while Roma’s Federico Fazio struggled to handle Liverpool’s forwards in Europe. 

Lionel Messi heads to Russia in form, finishing as Europe’s top scorer with 45 goals this season

CROATIA

FIFA ranking: 20 Odds: 33-1

World Cup best: Third (1998)

THE BOSS: Zlatko Dalic

Before taking over last year the 51-year-old spent seven seasons in the Middle East, taking UAE side Al Ain to the Asian Champions League final in 2016.

THE STAR: Luka Modric

Dictated the tempo of the Champions League final for Real Madrid as they blew away Liverpool. Modric is a world-class midfielder with great technique. 

THE PROSPECT: Marcelo Brozovic

Dalic has gone with experience so this is more of a one to watch. The box-to-box midfielder, 25, made nine assists for Inter Milan this season and complements Modric and Ivan Rakitic.

KEY STRENGTH

Their household names. Modric, Rakitic, Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic are no strangers to the big stage. 

BIGGEST WEAKNESS

The defence. Vedran Corluka has just returned from a long-term injury while Liverpool centre back Dejan Lovren need space around him.

Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric is a world-class operator with great technique
Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric is a world-class operator with great technique

Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric is a world-class operator with great technique

ICELAND

FIFA ranking: 22 Odds: 275-1

World Cup best: Debutants

THE BOSS: Heimir Hallgrimsson

The dentist who shocked England has led Iceland to their first World Cup. Co-manager Lars Lagerback left to manage Norway in 2017. 

THE STAR: Gylfi Sigurdsson

Playmaker needs to recapture the form that earned him a £45m move to Everton after a poor first year at Goodison. 

THE PROSPECT: Albert Gudmundsson

Promising PSV winger, 20, who has three goals in his five caps. His great-grandfather Albert was Iceland’s first professional player — featuring twice for Arsenal in 1946. 

KEY STRENGTH

 The players feed off the energy of their fans and their formidable thunderclap inspires them to another level. 

BIGGEST WEAKNESS

While they thrived off being an unknown quantity at Euro 2016, their lack of quality could see them found out here.

NIGERIA

FIFA ranking: 48 Odds: 250-1

World Cup best: Last 16 (1994, 1998, 2014) 

THE BOSS: Gernot Rohr 

German coach who has also managed Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso. 

THE STAR: Alex Iwobi

Arsenal forward looked a different player against England — and must now keep it up. 

THE PROSPECT: Tyrone Ebuehi

The wing-back, 22, caused England problems when he came on at Wembley and Nigeria switched to a back five. 

KEY STRENGTH

Plenty of pace and youth. They are much more threatening with wing-backs. 

BIG WEAKNESS

First-choice keeper Francis Uzoho, 19, has played just two club games for Deportivo.

Alex Iwobi looked a different player against England — and must now keep it up
Alex Iwobi looked a different player against England — and must now keep it up

Alex Iwobi looked a different player against England — and must now keep it up


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