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Can Nigeria progress from Group of Death?

Published on: Apr 29 at 3:38pm

The 2018 World Cup in Russia is less than seven weeks away as Gernot Rohr prepares his Nigeria team in what is this year's group of death.

Nigeria start with Croatia in Kaliningrad on Saturday 16 June.  Whilst no nation wants to make a losing start to their group to play catchup in their next two games, it's more important than ever that the Super Eagles get a result against Zlatko Dalic's side.

Croatia qualified through the playoffs in the UEFA section of qualifying after finishing runners-up to Iceland.  They comfortably beat Greece 4-1, which was already the score after the first leg.  Star players include Real Madrid's Luka Modric, Juventus' Mario Mandzukic and Internazionale's Ivan Perisic.

Four points could be enough for the runner-up to progress from that group and if it's four points Nigeria need then they may need to get them in their opening two games.  Second up is debutants Iceland on Friday 22 June in Volgograd.

Iceland were a surprise package at Euro 2016 where they reached the quarter-finals of the competition in what was their debut tournament.  This included holding Portugal to a 1-1 draw in the group and beating Austria 2-1.  They then pulled off one of the surprises of the tournament with a 2-1 win over England in the second round.

The Scandinavians could be without key player Gylfi Sigurdsson which is expected to be a big blow for Heimir Hallgrimsson's side.  The Everton attacking midfielder damaged his knee back in March after being Iceland's top scorer in qualifying with four goals.

Four days later Nigeria finish the group against Argentina at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg.  The South American nation are among the bookmakers' favourites to win the tournament this summer with their World Cup betting odds at 12.0 with Betfair.  It's no surprise with the attacking stars they have throughout their squad, including Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Mauro Icardi, Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala and Angel Di Maria.

However, Jorge Sampaoli's only squeaked through qualification and have question marks over their defence.  It certainly has the potential to be an exciting final Group D match.

Nigeria and Argentina actually met in the final group game four years ago at Brazil 2014 which ended in a thrilling 3-2 win for the South American nation.  Ahmed Musa had twice cancelled out Lionel Messi goals before Marcos Rojo scored the winning goal in the 50th minute.

Provided Nigeria get off to a good start in the group when they face Croatia then there's every reason to believe the Super Eagles will reach the second round for the fourth time in their sixth World Cup.

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