World Cup 2018: A guide to Nigeria’s Group D opponents and chances
Football fans all over the world have been reacting to the Russia 2018 World Cup draw with some juicy group and some rivalry re-ignited, Spain and Portugal will face each other in Group B, while Belgium and England will battle it out in Group G, the most interesting draw was in Group D, with Argentina and Nigeria facing each other for the fifth time in a World cup, other Nations in group D are Croatia and Iceland.
Nigerians are hoping the Super Eagles will have a good showing at the World Cup.
Let's take a look at Nigeria's Group D opponents and their chances of reaching the knock out stages:
Croatia vs Nigeria
8:00PM (GMT) Saturday June 16th, 2018
Currently Ranked 17th in the World, the European side qualified through the World Cup playoff defeating Greece 4-1 on Aggregate.
Coached by Zlatko Dalic who came in for last match away at Ukraine and their two playoff matches after Cacic was sacked ahead of the match, Croatia will look to earn all maximum point in the first game against the Super Eagles as they will be playing Argentina in their second game.
This will be Croatia's fifth appearance at the World Cup, they shocked the world in their first participation at France 98 with a third place finish with star player Davor suker leading the team.
Preferred formation: 4-2-3-1
Star player: Luka Modric (Real Madrid)
Croatia is a very strong side with some technically gifted player, this will be a very tricky game for the Super Eagles, Luka Modric is one of the most gifted midfielder in the World, he controls the game and dominates the midfield at his own pace. They have Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic too, who is very efficient.
Most of their regulars are very experienced, Ivan Perisic was one of the hotest players during the last transfer window as clubs like Manchester United tried to sign him from Inter Milan. Mario Mandzukic is a good and versatile forward, a striker that gives his all physically but can lose control when things are not going his way.
Nigeria should get a victory or at least a draw from this match, despite having enough individual talents, the Croatian National team struggled through their qualifying campaign which led to the sacking of their Coach.
Media reports suggest this was due to their country's internal conflicts within their federation, media, politics and fans, which makes it hard for the players to concentrate. They qualified through the playoffs with a new coach who would be hoping to have enough time and friendly matches to familiarise with the team.
Iceland vs Nigeria
4:00pm (GMT) Friday 22nd June 2018
Currently ranked 22nd, the smallest Nation ever to qualify for the World Cup, Iceland boast of great football fans, their supporters got all the attention at the last European tournament in France. Almost 10% of the country traveled to France and there could be a similar movement heading to Russia in 2018.
Iceland continued their amazing form after Euro 2016 by finishing on top of their group in the World Cup qualifiers with 22 points, it was another shocker as they had Croatia, Turkey, Ukraine in the same group.
This is their first appearance at the World Cup.
They are coached by Heimir Hallgrimsson who took over from former Super Eagles coach, Lagerback.
Preferred formation: 4-4-2
Star player: Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton)
Coach Gernot Rohr and his boys have to go all out for the 3 points in this match. Iceland will be stubborn, they tend to soak up all the pressure in games and break on the counter, they are also very good at set pieces with the deadly Sigurdsson, though the Everton midfielder is currently struggling with form at the moment.
Iceland will be playing with no pressure at all, this match has all the potential to be entertaining.
Nigeria vs Argentina
7:00pm (GMT) Tuesday 26th June
Most likely the last World cup for a lot of senior players, Argentina will be hoping to go one step further after losing 1-0 to eventual champions Germany in the final at the 2014 World Cup. They struggled to qualify for the World cup, Lionel Messi scored a record 21 goals during the qualifiers with a hat-trick in the last match away at Ecuador.
Coached by Jorge Sampaoli, a great tactician, Argentine players must put their poor performances during the qualifiers behind as the former Chile coach would hope to win the next World cup, Argentina finished third behind Brazil and Uruguay in the South America qualifying campaign.
Preferred formation: 3-4-3
Star player: Lionel Messi (Barcelona).
The Super Eagles last friendly match was against Argentina in Russia, Nigeria came back from 2 goals down to beat the former World Champions 4-2. Though Argentina was without Messi, it was still a shocking victory, Jorge Sampaoli's teams no matter who is playing are always organized and hard to beat, this could give the Super Eagles a psychological edge when they play Argentina at the 2018 World Cup.
Watch coach Gernot Rohr's reaction to the World cup draw below.
Coach Gernot Rohr reacts to 2018 FIFA #WorldCupDraw, says Group D is filled with good teams and playing Argentina again will make things tougher for us. pic.twitter.com/V95bAcAZiw— 🇳🇬 Super Eagles (@NGSuperEagles) December 1, 2017
This is a very tricky draw for the Super Eagles of Nigeria, looks easy and difficult at the same time.
To stand a chance of making it to the knockout stages, Gernot Rohr must target at least four points from our first two games before the Super Eagles face Argentina. Messi and his teammates won't underrate the young Eagles.
The NFF must arrange grade A friendlies that can help the coach figure out his best starting 11 and solve the Goal keeper problem as soon as possible.
No matter the outcome, this will be another exciting experience for football fans all over the World.