BREAK DOWN OF GROUP D IN WORLD CUP SOCCER

Group D includes South American giants Argentina, along with Iceland, Croatia, and Nigeria. This is another open group, with all four teams in with a chance of progressing to the next stage.

While 2014 World Cup finalists Argentina are the obvious favourites, and the smart money will be on Croatia to join them in the Round of 16, the second spot is very much up for grabs.

Argentina

This will be the last major tournament for many of Argentina's great players, and the last chance for Lionel Messi to win the World Cup while he's at the peak of his career. Some of the players likely to retire from the international stage after Russia 2018 include Sergio Romero, Lucas Biglia, Ángel Di María, Gonzalo Higuaín, Éver Banega, and Sergio Agüero. While Messi could make another World Cup, many commentators are saying it's now or never for the Argentinian great - Bookmaker Free Bets

Argentina struggled during qualifying, with some doubts they would even make the cut this time around. Despite a shaky start, they ended up qualifying third in South America behind Brazil and Uruguay. Their form is far from consistent, with new coach Jorge Sampaoli only managing a single win in four official matches.

The 57-year-old Argentine is the team's third coach in less than a year, a fact that never inspires confidence. If Lionel Messi manages to find form, however, absolutely anything is possible. Already regarded by many as the greatest player of all time, few will dis-grudge him this title if he can lead this team to victory.

Iceland

Iceland are the smallest country competing at this year's World Cup, with the city of Moscow alone outnumbering their 330,000 people.

What they lack in numbers they make up for in enthusiasm, however, with almost 10 percent of the population travelling to support them at Euro 2016. Iceland showed that they are capable of knocking out big teams when they defeated England during that competition, something they could achieve again by beating Argentina, Croatia, or Nigeria.

The gritty and hard-working Iceland team features Aron Gunnarsson from Cardiff City, Gylfi Sigurdsson from Everton, and Hordur Bjorgvin Magnusson from Bristol City.

Interestingly, coach Heimir Hallgrimsson actually has a day job as a dentist, with those quirky Icelanders never failing to surprise. While Argentina will be very tough for this team to beat, Iceland could conceivably win against Nigeria and have already beaten Croatia for the top spot in qualifying in order to make it this far.

Croatia

Croatia qualified for Russia 2018 after placing second in European Group I behind Iceland and then winning a play-off against Greece. While they started the qualifying campaign well, they got progressively worse and the manager was sacked with just one game remaining.

Croatia have some fantastic talent on the team, including Real Madrid's Luka Modric, Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic, Mario Mandzukic, and Ivan Perisic. If new coach Zlatko Dalic can get them in the right mindset, this side will be tough to beat.

Croatia's star players always struggle to replicate their club form, however, something they'll have to do if they want to go to the Round of 16 and beyond.

In many ways, this will be the last chance for these players to perform on the international stage, with Luka Modric now 32 and most of the other starters approaching 30. While their talent is undeniable, Croatia are still struggling from internal divisions involving the national football federation, the media, and even the fans. This outstanding generation of players will need to play at their very best if they want to emulate their third-place finish at the 1998 World Cup.  

Nigeria

Africa is well represented at Russia 2018, with the hopes of the continent resting with Nigeria along with Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Senegal.

Nigeria were the first team in Africa to qualify, convincingly winning a group that contained current African champion Cameroon, former champion Zambia, and Algeria. The Super Eagles even managed to come back from 2-0 down against Argentina to win their friendly 4-2, a team they will have to face again in Group D. Nigeria have qualified for five of the last six World Cups, and will be keen to take it beyond the Group stage this year in Russia.

Nigeria have a lot of naturally talented players, including John Obi Mikel, Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho, and Victor Moses. While captain Mikel should provide enough stability in the midfield, like many African teams, they can be broken down easily at the back in tough games.

Saying that, however, German coach Gernot Rohr has added a defensive mindset and a sense of strong discipline to the side since he took over last year. After going through eight coaches since Brazil 2014, Nigeria seem to have found stability and fantastic form at the perfect time.  

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