Argentine Captain, Lionel Messi, trains in the rain prior to their first match against Iceland on Saturday, June 16. Messi has yet to win the coveted World Cup. (via @Argentina/Twitter)

FIFA World Cup preview: Lionel Messi set to shine on the world stage in Group D

Argentina are the favourites to win Group D, as the battle for the runners-up will be a great one

The 2018 FIFA World Cup begins on Thursday, June 14. Leading up to the tourney, we’ll offer our previews and predictions for each of the eight groups. Today, a look at Group D:

Argentina

FIFA rank (as of June 10, 2018): 5

Best player: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

Messi is Argentina. He’s Argentina’s all-time leading goal-scorer. He has also been the face of Barcelona since the departure of Ronaldinho in 2008.

One to watch: Paulo Dybala (Juventus)

Dybala, the 24-year-old forward scored 22 goals for Juventus this season in the Serie A and has been a star at the club since he transferred from Palermo in 2015.

Outlook:

Argentina expects to win and some say it is now or never for Messi and the Argentines. The nation’s forward group is obviously better than their back end. If they are able to prevent goals then maybe this can be their year.

Iceland

FIFA rank: 22

Best player: Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton)

Sigdursson is pivotal in Iceland’s attack and even though he had a tough season in Everton he is still the go-to player for this team.

One to watch: Hordur Magnusson (Bristol City)

Magnusson is a 25-year-old defender who appeared in 24 matches for Bristol City in the Championship. He transferred to the Italian giants Juventus in 2011, however he never played in a match for them.

Outlook:

Iceland proved they could compete on an international stage at the Euros in 2016 when they advanced through the group stage and beat England in the Round of 16.

Croatia

FIFA rank: 18

Best player: Luka Modric (Real Madrid)

Croatia’s captain, Modric is the engine of their midfield who will use his passing ability to provide scoring opportunities for his team.

One to watch: Mateo Kovacic (Real Madrid)

Kovacic is a 24-year-old midfielder who has played well with his time in Madrid. He began playing for the national team when he was only 19.

Outlook:

The pressure will be on Croatia to make it through Group D behind Argentina. They have a strong midfield and matches against Nigeria and Iceland are not easy wins.

Nigeria

FIFA rank: 47

Best player: John Obi Mikel (Tianjin Teda)

Former Chelsea midfielder will captain his country at age 31. Still a quality player, Mikel will be relied upon to provide stability in the midfield.

One to watch: Victor Moses (Chelsea)

After a good year with Chelsea, Moses played mostly a defensive role for his club and will be looked upon more in the midfield and possibly up front for his country.

Outlook:

This is a tough group for Nigeria and facing Argentina last gives them the opportunity to clinch a spot in the knockout stage before they reach the South American giants.

Group Winner: Argentina. Their offensive play with Messi is too much to handle for the rest of the group.

Group Runner-Up: Croatia. Croatia’s midfield is clinical and they have a well-balanced back line.


@kieranroconnor
kieran.oconnor@bpdigital.ca

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