The World Cup's Group D Is The Group Of Death... For Everyone Else - The Reykjavik Grapevine

The World Cup’s Group D Is The Group Of Death… For Everyone Else

The World Cup’s Group D Is The Group Of Death… For Everyone Else

Published June 5, 2018

Greig Robertson
Photos by
Lóa Hlín Hjalmtýsdóttir

When Iceland was pulled in Group D of the World Cup alongside Argentina, Nigeria and previous-smited weaklings Croatia, many called it the Group of Death. They’re right, it is… for everyone else. Here’s some opposition research on the first three teams Iceland will humble and destroy on the march to inevitable World Cup victory.

ARGENTINA

World Ranking: 5
Coach: Jorge Sampaoli
Captain: Lionel Messi
Key player: Lionel Messi
Last game against Iceland: N/A
Date to be smited: June 16th
Battlefield: Spartak Stadium

Argentina and Iceland have never previously met, making the boys in blue unbeaten against the Group D favourites. Lionel Messi’s side suffered some well-documented troubles in qualification, waiting until the last game against Ecuador to book their place in Russia. Surprise, surprise: it was Leo who slammed in a hat-trick. To say La Albiceleste are over-reliant on their talismanic captain would be an understatement. 

For example, without Messi in a friendly against Nigeria last November, Argentina slumped to a 4-2 defeat, having led 2-0. Things got even worse for them in March as Spain delivered a smiting of unholy proportions, trouncing the South Americans 6-1 as Lionel looked on, disgusted. Their recent 4-0 triumph over Haiti only reaffirmed this dependence, as the little magician notched another hat-trick and assisted Sergio Agüero.

All of this is heartening for our boys—if they can mark Messi out of the game. Aron “The Annihilator” is already licking his lips at the prospect, and will take delight in smiting the G.O.A.T.’s (“Greatest Of All Time”) last shot at glory into oblivion.

Predicted group position: 2nd

A fit and firing Leo will undoubtedly see the Argies graduate from the group if they can overcome their defensive fragility. They’re prime for a smash ‘n’ grab pillage in the group’s opening game on June 16th.

NIGERIA

World Ranking: 47
Coach: Gernot Rohr
Captain: John Obi Mikel
Key player: Alex Iwobi
Last game against Iceland: 22nd August 1981, Iceland 3-0 Nigeria
Date to be smited: June 22nd
Battlefield: Volgograd Arena

Nigeria’s home shirt may have sold out faster than Aron Jóhannsson did to the United States, but can their performances on the pitch generate the same hysteria? Despite an unbeaten run in qualifying, the Super Eagles’ lack of experience has proved a major talking point in the build-up to Russia, and their unpredictability is likely to prove their greatest strength and pitfall.

They conceded a late penalty in a recent friendly against DR Congo at home to draw 1-1, and had a first half to forget against England at Wembley Stadium. In the second period of the 2-1 defeat to the Three Lions, though, Gernot Rohr’s men impressed, with Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi turning in an eye-catching performance in the number 10 role.

Their German coach’s tactical nous could well have earned his side a share of the spoils in London, so Heimir will need a dagger up his sleeve on June 22nd.

Predicted group position: 4th

They like to play on the front foot and have significant firepower in Odion Ighalo and Kelechi Iheanacho, but their style will suit our boys. Grapevine expects proceedings in Volgograd to be in the same vein as when Iceland last smited them out of their senses in a 3-0 1981 tie.

CROATIA

World Ranking: 18
Coach: Zlatko Dalić
Captain: Luka Modrić
Key player: Luka Modrić
Last game against Iceland: 11th June 2017, Iceland 1-0 Croatia
Date to be smited: June 26th
Battlefield: Rostov Arena

Having almost been ended by Iceland in qualification, Croatia reached Russia by the skin of their teeth. While they negotiated their group decider against Ukraine and a play-off against Greece nicely, they have flattered to deceive at recent major tournaments, and will be a scalping target for coach Heimir. 

Their recent friendly against Brazil on June 3rd was a case in point of their limitations; Luka Modrić and Ivan Rakitić saw plenty of the ball in the second half, without ever connecting meaningfully with forwards Ivan Perišić and Andrej Kramarić. In the eventual 2-0 defeat at Anfield, The Blazers’ concentration waned, and Neymar was quick to capitalise.

Should Gylfi “The Viking Virtuoso” Sigurðsson get a similar sniff of blood, he’ll gladly deliver a sucker-punch; Dejan Lovren is rumoured to have packed a suitcase full of Kleenex in anticipation. 

Predicted group position: 3rd

Stronger on paper than in reality, and unwarranting of their “dark horse” status, Mario Mandžukić is a capable forward threat who could provide a stiff physical test for Iceland’s backline. That is, if facing Hannes “Wild Claws” Halldórsson again doesn’t trigger his PTSD.

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