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Breaking Down Super Eagles’ Group D Opponents

It is less than two weeks before the FIFA World Cup gets underway, with the Super Eagles set to open their challenge with a tough fixture against Croatia on 16th June in Kaliningrad

06/06/2018

/ by Biyi Akangbe
It is less than two weeks before the FIFA World Cup gets underway, with the Super Eagles set to open their challenge with a tough fixture against Croatia on 16th June in Kaliningrad. After that, it’s Iceland on 22nd June in Volgograd, followed by Argentina on 26th June in St Petersburg. Most fans will, of course, be aware of the coincidence that Nigeria played Argentina in the final group game at the last World Cup. In fact, this is the third time in succession that Nigeria have been drawn in the same group as the South Americans.



However, can the Super Eagles go into that final round of fixtures with a chance of qualification? With a chance of winning the group? They are best-priced at odds of 11/4 with Betfair to get through to the Last 16 and a massive 11/1 to win the group. But that’s going to take some seriously big performances from Gernot Rohr’s men. Can they do it? Here is a closer look at those three opponents:

Argentina
As mentioned, Nigeria are perhaps a little all too familiar with Argentina at the World Cup. However, one could argue that this time around the confidence around Argentina is at an all-time low. Yes, they are priced among the main contenders at 9/1 and the latest Tips World Cup Winner opinions will never completely rule out a team with Lionel Messi in its ranks, but Argentina are all over the place at the moment. They struggled to qualify for Russia and were humbled 6-1 by Spain in a friendly recently. All is not right with Messi and co so the time might be ripe for the upset to take place. However, with such great players – Messi, Higuain, Aguero, Dybala and so on – they still have the class to turn their fortunes around.

Croatia
Often seen as the ultimate ‘dark horse’ side, Croatia are a big price of 33/1 to win the World Cup. Sounds like too much of a longshot? Well, they have an abundance of talent in the likes of Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic, Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic, Juventus’ Mario Mandzukic and Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic. The squad is a little thin outside of the first XI, but, make no mistake about it, Croatia can put eleven men on the pitch who could beat any team in world football. While we should always be optimistic going into a major tournament, a draw against Croatia in Kaliningrad would surely be a satisfactory result for Super Eagles fans.

Iceland
The side that Nigeria simply must beat to have a good chance of reaching the Last 16 in Russia. Iceland, who are the smallest country by population to qualify for a World Cup, showed their worth when knocking England out of Euro 2016 a couple of summers ago. They are a hard-working team, one whose whole seems to be greater than the sum of its parts. However, they also have some undoubted class on the pitch, summed up by the talismanic Gylfi Sigurdsson in the No 10 position. The Everton man is struggling with injury but has still been named in Iceland’s squad. He will have to be watched closely by John Obi Mikel, but he can also hurt Nigeria from set-pieces. Stop Sigurdsson and Nigeria will take a big step towards qualification for the Last 16.

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