In Review

World Cup group D permutations: Iceland vs. Croatia and Nigeria vs. Argentina

Will Lionel Messi and Argentina crash out of the World Cup at the group stage?

Argentina’s 3-0 hammering by Croatia last week has left them on the brink of World Cup elimination at the first hurdle.

Lionel Messi and Co will need to beat Nigeria tonight to stand any chance of qualifying from group D. Croatia are already through and it’s between Nigeria, Iceland and Argentina for the final qualifying spot.

Table-toppers Croatia take on Iceland at the Rostov Arena while Argentina face Nigeria at the Saint Petersburg Stadium. Both games start at 7pm and are live on the BBC.

Group D permutations

Fifa.com explains the permutations in group D:

  • Croatia have already qualified 
  • A draw for Croatia against Iceland will secure them top spot 
  • Nigeria will qualify with a win against Argentina 
  • A draw will be enough for Nigeria, if Iceland fail to beat Croatia 
  • If Iceland beat Croatia and Argentina beat Nigeria it would come down to goal difference 
  • A draw is no good for either Iceland or Argentina

Nigeria vs. Argentina 

  • When: Tuesday 26 June 
  • Kick-off time: 7pm 
  • Where: Saint Petersburg Stadium, St Petersburg 
  • TV channel: live on BBC One

Two-time World Cup winners Argentina come into their vital clash against Nigeria bottom of group D with just one point from their two matches.

It’s a must-win game for Lionel Messi and Argentina but a draw would be enough for Nigeria to qualify with Croatia for the World Cup round of 16.

The BBC reports that Argentina goalkeeper Willy Caballero is set to be dropped after his error in the 3-0 loss to Croatia. Uncapped River Plate keeper Franco Armani is likely to be named in the team to face Nigeria.

Argentina boss Jorge Sampaoli could also pick Gonzalo Higuain up front in place of Sergio Aguero while Angel Di Maria and Ever Banega are “in contention” to start says the BBC.

Nigeria could name an unchanged line-up and may stick with the 3-5-2 formation that beat Iceland 2-0 last time out.

Nigeria vs. Argentina predicted starting XIs

How the teams could line up at the Saint Petersburg Stadium, according to Fifa.com:

  • Nigeria (3-5-2): Francis Uzoho; Kenneth Omeruo, William Ekong, Leon Balogun; Tyronne Ebuehi, Wilfred Ndidi, John Obi Mikel, Oghenekaro Etebo, Victor Moses; Kelechi Iheanacho, Ahmed Musa 
  • Argentina (4-4-2): Franco Armani; Eduardo Salvio, Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi, Nicolas Tagliafico; Ever Banega, Javier Mascherano, Enzo Perez, Angel Di Maria; Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain

Iceland vs. Croatia

  • When: Tuesday 26 June 
  • Kick-off time: 7pm 
  • Where: Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don 
  • TV channel: live on BBC Four

Already qualified Croatia will aim to make it three wins from three in group D. A win or a draw for Croatia will send Iceland home.

For Iceland, who have one point from their two group matches, it would take the “biggest success” in their footballing history to qualify for the last 16. 

Iceland need to beat Croatia, hope that Nigeria lose to Argentina and in doing so have a better goal difference than Argentina to qualify, The Guardian reports. A Nigeria victory would eliminate Iceland and Argentina in any case.

It’s a tough ask for Iceland, but head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson remains positive. He told the Guardian: “Why are Icelanders so optimistic? I think it’s in the genes. We are optimistic about everything. If it’s the Eurovision Song Contest, we always think we’re going to win it, even though we never do.

“It’s the same here at the World Cup. We think we’re going to win all the games and, even if we lose, we think we’re going to win the next one.”

Speaking to Sky Sports he added: “For nations like Argentina, Portugal, Germany, it would be a shock not to qualify, for the final 16. If we managed to qualify for the final 16 it would probably be the biggest success in the short Icelandic football history.”

Iceland vs. Croatia predicted starting XIs

How the teams could line up at the Rostov Arena, according to Fifa.com:

  • Iceland (4-5-1): Hannes Halldorsson; Birkir Saevarsson, Kari Arnason, Ragnar Sigurdson, Hordur Magnusson; Aron Gunnarsson, Emil Hallfredsson, Johann Gudmundsson, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Birkir Bjarnason; Alfred Finnbogason 
  • Croatia (4-3-3): Lovre Kalinic; Tin Jedvaj, Vedran Corluka, Domagoj Vida, Josip Pivaric; Milan Badelj, Mateo Kovacic, Filip Bradaric; Marko Pjaca, Andrej Kramaric, Ivan Perisic

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