Here is a quick rundown of everything you need to know about Super Eagles opponents in Group D of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
The Super Eagles are housed in group D of the 2018 FIFA World Cup alongside Argentina, Croatia and Iceland, here is all you need to know about Nigeria’s opponents.
The Super Eagles will square up against perennial World Cup foes Argentina, surprise package and debutants Iceland and Croatia, who finished third in France 1998, completed the seeding.
With the Super Eagles set to meet Argentina for the fifth time in their sixth World Cup appearance – baring 1998 World Cup – Nigerians definitely know what to expect from the South American giants.
However, not much is known about Nigeria’s other opponents with no record of previous meetings with the two European nations. Theoretically, Nigeria look the weakest team in the group judging by the latest FIFA ranking but history has it that the Eagles have been very successful against European teams at the World Cup.
In fact, Nigeria have only recorded five victories in all their sojourns to the World Cup and all of them have come against European teams. Although, it must be stated that the Eagles have a dismal record against teams from Europe in the knockout stages as they have been eliminated in the second round on three different occasions by three different European teams – Italy 1994, Denmark 1998, and France 2014.
Without much ado, let’s serve you all you need to know about our World Cup opponents in Group D:
The La Albiceleste are previous winners of the World Cup in 1978 and 1986 and will be making their 17th World cup appearance in Russia, but how did they get to Russia?
The Argentines booked their place in Russia by picking one of the four and half automatic tickets alloted to the CONMEBOL region. The journey wasn’t rosy for the Argies as they struggled throughout the qualifiers and were even on the verge of not qualifying.
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After a string of poor results, the Argentina Football Association (AFA) relieved Edgardo Bauza of his duties and was replaced by the then Sevilla FC gaffer, Jorge Sampaoli. The latter would steer them to qualification with the very last game of the series.
Arguably the best footballer of the modern era, Lionel Messi needs no introduction. The little Barcelona forward was instrumental in his teams’ qualification for World Cup.
After announcing his retirement from international football due to criticisms which followed Argentina’s two successful Copa America final defeats in the hands of Chile, the mercurial forward was persuaded to come out of retirement in other to rescue the La Albiceleste who were on the brink of missing out on the World Cup.
Messi worked his magic and scored a sweet hat-trick in their 3-1 win over Ecuador in the last game of the qualifiers which sealed Argentina’s passage to Russia.
Argentina are being coached by Jorge Sampaoli, the man who was brought in to salvage their world Cup hopes after his predecessor, Edgardo Bauza failed. The charismatic gaffer led Chile to winning the Copa America back-to-back beating his native country Argentina in both finals.
Argentina are currently ranked 5th best football playing team in the world by FIFA and are 43 places ahead of Nigeria who are ranked 48th in the world.
The Balcan nation will be making their fifth World Cup appearance in Russia. In their debut outing in France, Croatia surprised the rest of the world by going as far as the Semi-final before they were knocked out by the host and eventual winners – France. They went on to beat Holland in the losers final (third place match) by 2-1 to finish the tournament as the third best team.
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After finding themselves in group I of the Eruo zone of the qualifiers alongside the likes of Iceland, Ukraine, Turkey, Finland and Kosovo, the Croats were touted as the favourites to snatch an automatic ticket in the group.
However, things never went as expected. The tiny Nordic island nation, Iceland, had other ideas as they toppled Croatia to qualify as the group winners while condemning the latter to a play off spot.
Croatia sacked their coach Ante Cacic after that outcome and was replaced by the current manager, Zlatko Dalic who oversaw their last group game against Ukraine and the two-legged playoff matches against Greece. The Croats beat Greece 4-1 in the first leg of the qualifiers and drew the second leg 0-0 to confirm their place at the World Cup.
Croatia parade a lot of star players in their rank but one man stands tall above others – Luka Modric. The Real Madrid midfielder is one of the best around.
He is the captain of his team and he’s also responsible for their creative play in the midfield. With four Champions League titles under his belt and a couple of La Liga titles to boot, Modric undoubtedly has what it takes to steer his team to success in Russia.
Zlatko Dalic took over the reigns as the coach of Croatia after the sack of Ante Cacic who oversaw all but one of their ‘failed’ group I campaigns. With no admirable managerial track record, the Croatia-born tactician will be hoping to put his name in the league of great coaches when he leads his team out in Russia.
Croatia are the best ranked team in group D of the World Cup after Argentina. They are currently ranked 20th in the world by FIFA thus 28 places ahead of Nigeria.
When Iceland step out in Russia, they will be doing so as the smallest nation by population to ever clinch a FIFA World Cup place and if there is any team capable of springing surprise in Russia come 2018, they will definitely be the one.
The tiny nation with population of 334,252 people announced their arrival to international football with an impressive outing at the UEFA Euro 2016.
Having beaten European football giant Holland both home and away during their qualification campaign, Iceland went on to pull the biggest shock of Euro 2016 by eliminating England in the second round to reach the quarter finals.
After their Euro 2016 success, Iceland followed up with yet another impressive performance to usurp Croatia in group I of the European qualifiers thereby grabbing an automatic ticket to Russia.
This will be their first ever World Cup appearance and Our Boys, as fondly called, will be hoping to pull more upset at the mundial.
The strength of the Icelandic team lies in their marvelous team play and this is built around Everton midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Despite his below par performance in the Premiere League last season, the midfielder still remains central to Iceland’s success in the World Cup
Sigurdsson bagged four goals for Iceland during the qualifiers as the they wrap up a successful campaign and will be carrying the hopes of his nation when they take to the field in Russia.
Iceland will be going to the World Cup next year boasting of a former dentist, Heimir Hallgrimsson, as their coach. The manager previously served as joint-head coach with former Super Eagles coach, Lars Lagerback. Hallgrimsson has overseen Iceland’s remarkable rise. Having led the team with Lagerback at UEFA EURO 2016, he was solely in charge as they reached their first World Cup.
Iceland are placed 22nd in the latest FIFA ranking and this placed them as the third best ranked team in Group D with 26 places ahead of Nigeria.