It may look good on the standings, but finished 3rd place behind Uruguay & Brazil in the qualifiers. The truth behind that position is 4 losses and 7 draws. Not too impressive if you wear the Argentinian jersey.
Coach Jorge Sampaoli advocates a very attacking philosophy as we saw in Chile between 2012 – 2016. His Chilean side was one of the most entertaining teams in the world.
With quality players all over the field, he should be able to achieve something similar with Argentina.
The competition for the top spot in the group is tough. Argentina will battle Croatia, Nigeria & Iceland, all being capable of stealing points from each other.
To watch out for: The Argentinian offense! And of course, Messi. I will pick an outsider though. Emiliano Rigoni played very well in Zenit and scored lots of goals in Europa League.
If he is given playing time, he can shine in Russia.
The fantastic jerseys of Croatia will again decorate the stadiums in the World Cup.
It feels like Croatia has one of the most interesting teams on paper. You find quality all over the pitch. But you tend to ask yourself, why have they stuck with these material?
Croatia has been a turbulent football nation with internal battles in the football association. So also supporters’ problems and coach issues.
It is easy to say that Croatia hasn’t been given optimal circumstances to make the best of their quality. But perhaps Zlatko Dalic can give the nation a lift. Croatia finished 2nd in the group, behind Iceland, but comfortably beat Greece in the playoffs.
They have Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic in the midfield. You can be rest assured there are chances to stand tall against any national team in the world.
Until being knocked out by Portugal in the Euros in France, Croatia did beat Spain. Perhaps they played the best football in the tournament.
They have a new respected coach ready to start fresh. So I am looking forward to see Croatia play Argentina, Iceland, and Nigeria in a group of death.
To watch out for: Are you weak for brilliance? Most of us are. In that case, enjoy Luka Modric on the pitch and see his constant awareness and ball movement. The man who scored an unforgettable goal in the Champions League.
Mario Mandzukic and his never-ending runs is also a man to watch.
They brought sensation to the Euros in France. They tied with Portugal in the group, knocked out England, and fell short against France.
Iceland has done it again. They won the group consisting of Turkey, Croatia, and Ukraine, and will participate in their first ever World Cup in Russia.
We welcome back the famous Volcano supporters to make noise in the Russian stadiums.
The team is without the successful coach Lars Lagerback – one time Nigeria coach, but current coach Heimir Hallgrimsson has done a great job. He maintains the typical Icelandic style of play. Enormous work ethic, excellent set pieces, and counter-attacks.
Iceland has the third highest average age in the tournament. Many experienced players, but none of them have played a World Cup.
To watch out for: Gylfi Sigurdsson is the heart and soul of the team. One of the most underrated players in the Premier League. His right foot will be the difference for Iceland’s progression chances in the tournament.
Gernot Rohr, the 64-year-old German coach in charge of Nigeria has a long history of managing African national teams. He has got 1 loss against South Africa during the time in charge in Nigeria. Meaning his competitive records has been impressive.
The most impressive uncompetitive result is the 4-2 victory against Argentina in a friendly, against a strong Argentina side on paper, despite it being a friendly. Every other result after that has been awful especially their build up games to the world cup.
Win against Poland, and less inspiring draw against DR Congo has been dwarfed by the losses to England, Serbia and Czech Republic as the Super Eagles will head to Russia on a low ebb.
Nigeria is particularly talented on the forward positions with the English Premier League trio Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho and Ahmed Musa available.
If you remember the Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel, he is now 30 years old and provides the leadership in the defensive midfield role.
An extra fact for you is that Nigeria has the youngest team in the World Cup, so they should be exciting to watch with all that youth, but they are also physically strong and possess a lot of paces.
If you hear the melody, they have very exciting ingredients to be successful in the long run. Perhaps this World Cup is too early for them, but give them another four years under solid management and Nigeria can be an incredibly charming team to watch.
It is safe to say that Nigeria ended up in one of the toughest group with Argentina, Croatia, and Iceland.
To watch out for: There is plenty of youth on the team, but the forward partners Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Ihenacho have been lethal together and it is exciting to see how they will cope with experienced teams.
The “Oyinbo Wall” of Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong is also a pairing that has helped the Super Eagles steady the ship at the back