Nigeria carry African hopes in Group D of the 2018 Fifa World Cup, the Super Eagles have Argentina, Croatia, and Iceland for company and we take a look at the form, squads and outright betting markets concerning each nation.
Note, odds quoted are an average price, accurate at the time of writing but subject to change
Qualification: Qualified as third best in South America, 3 points behind Uruguay and 13 shy of Brazil
Form: Argentina made heavy weather of qualifying with 7 wins, 7 draws and 4 defeats, scoring 19 goals and conceding 16.
In the 2014 finals they won their group with a 100% record and then edged their way through to the final where they finished as runners to Germany, losing 1-0 in extra time. South Africa 2010 also saw Argentina start well but they exited at the quarter final stage to Germany, going down 4-0.
Their most recent major tournament was the 2016 Copa America, again they won all 3 group matches and went on to progress to the final where they were beaten 1-0 by Chile.
Recent friendly international form is hit and miss with the squad having being rotated
Goalkeepers: Willy Caballero (Chelsea), Franco Armani (River Plate), Nahuel Guzman (Tigres).
Defenders: Gabriel Mercado (Sevilla), Federico Fazio (Roma), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), Nicolas Taglafico (Ajax), Javier Mascherano (Hebei Fortune), Marcos Acuna (Sporting Lisbon), Cristian Ansaldi (Torino).
Midfielders: Ever Banega (Sevilla), Lucas Biglia (AC Milan), Angel Di María, Giovani Lo Celso (both Paris St-Germain), Manuel Lanzini (West Ham), Cristian Pavon (Boca Juniors), Maximiliano Meza (Independiente), Eduardo Salvio (Benfica).
Forwards: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala (both Juventus), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City).
To win the group 6/10
To qualify from the group 2/13
Qualification: Topped their African region group finishing 6 points clear of Zambia
Form: Nigeria came through a really tough qualifying group which also included Algeria and AFCON 2017 winners Cameroon. They were unbeaten with 4 wins and 2 draws, scoring 12 goals and conceding just 4.
We didn’t see the Super Eagles in the AFCON 2017 finals and in the 2014 World Cup finals they made it through a group which also included Argentina before bowing out 2-0 to France in the first knockout round. In South Africa 2010 Argentina were again a group stage opponent and the Super Eagles managed to take just 1 point from 3 matches to exit the tournament early.
Recent friendly form is not encouraging with 4 defeats and 1 draw in the last 5
Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (Deportivo La Coruna), Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Enyimba), Daniel Akpeyi (Chippa United).
Defenders: William Troost-Ekong, Abdullahi Shehu (both Bursaspor), Tyronne Ebuehi (Benfica), Elderson Echiejile (Cercle Brugge), Bryan Idowu (Amkar Perm), Chidozie Awaziem (Porto), Leon Balogun (Brighton), Kenneth Omeruo (Chelsea).
Midfielders: Mikel John Obi (Tianjin Teda), Ogenyi Onazi (Trabzonspor), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester), Oghenekaro Etebo (CD Feirense), John Ogu (Hapoel Be'er Sheva), Joel Obi (Torino, Italy).
Forwards: Ahmed Musa, Kelechi Iheanacho (both Leicester), Victor Moses (Chelsea), Odion Ighalo (Changchun Yatai), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Simeon Nwankwo (Crotone).
To win the group 10/1
To qualify from the group 23/10
Qualification: Came through the play offs after finishing second in their group, 2 points behind Iceland.
Form: Croatia beat Greece 4-1 on aggregate in the play offs to secure their spot at these final. In their qualifying group they won 6, drew 2 and lost 2 of their matches, scoring 15 goals and conceding 4 and they were ranked fourth best of the European second place finishers.
Croatia’s most recent major tournament finals came in Euro 2016. They came through a tough group with 2 wins and 1 draw which included a 2-1 victory over Spain before bowing out in the first knockout round, losing 1-0 to Portugal in extra time.
In the World Cup 2014 finals Croatia failed to make it out of their group after losing 3-1 to Brazil and Mexico either side of a 4-0 victory over Cameroon.
Goalkeepers: Danijel Subasic (Monaco), Lovre Kalinic (Gent), Dominik Livakovic (Dinamo Zagreb).
Defenders: Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Domagoj Vida (Besiktas), Ivan Strinic (Milan), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool), Sime Vrsaljko (Atletico Madrid), Josip Pivaric (Dynamo Kiev), Tin Jedvaj (Bayer Leverkusen), Duje Caleta-Car (Red Bull Salzburg).
Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona), Mateo Kovacic (Real Madrid), Milan Badelj (Fiorentina), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan), Filip Bradaric (Rijeka).
Forwards: Mario Mandzukic (Juventus), Ivan Perisic (Inter Milan), Nikola Kalinic (AC Milan), Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim), Marko Pjaca (Juventus), Ante Rebic (Fiorentina).
To win the group 22/110
To qualify from the group 5/10
Qualification: Topped their qualifying group finishing 2 points ahead of Croatia.
Form: Iceland won 7, drew 1 and lost 2 of their qualifiers, scoring 16 goals and conceding 7 to finish ahead of Croatia with the likes of Turkey and Ukraine missing out.
Their most recent major tournament was Euro 2016 and they had great campaign, coming through the group with draws against Portugal and Hungary followed by a 2-1 win over Austria. In the first knockout round they disposed of England with a 2-1 win but the quarter finals were a bridge too far as they lost 5-2 to host nation France.
Goalkeepers: Hannes Thor Halldorsson (Randers FC), Runar Runarsson (FC Nordsjælland), Frederik Schram (FC Roskilde).
Defenders: Kari Arnason (Vikingur), Ari Skulason (Lokeren), Birkir Saevarsson (Valur), Sverrir Ingason (FC Rostov), Hordur Magnusson (Bristol City), Holmar Eyjolfsson (Levski Sofia), Ragnar Sigurdsson (FC Rostov).
Midfielders: Johann Gudmundsson (Burnley), Birkir Bjarnason (Aston Villa), Arnor Traustason (Malmo FF), Emil Hallfredsson (Udinese), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton), Olafur Skulason (Kardemir Karabukspor), Rurik Gislason (SV Sandhausen), Samuel Fridjonsson (Valerenga), Aron Gunnarsson (Cardiff City).
Forwards: Alfred Finnbogason (Augsburg), Bjorn Sigurdarson (FC Rostov), Jon Dadi Bodvarsson (Reading), Albert Gudmundsson (PSV Eindhoven).
To win the group 11/1
To qualify from the group 26/10
Argentina will capture the bulk of the attention but they battled in qualifying and they will need to be on their game to justify short odds to win this group. On qualifying form there would seem little between Croatia and Iceland although the major finals experience and some big name players would explain the difference in their respective quotes to progress from the group.
Then we have Nigeria who were excellent in qualifying and are not to be underestimated despite their recent friendly form.
I’ll take a chance that Iceland’s bubble will burst in what should be a lively group.
Bet: World Cup - Group Points Total Iceland, under 2.5 at 21/20
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