Lionel Messi’s Argentina will look to better their 2014 final exit but, will have to get out of a competitive group D.

Group D with Argentina, Nigeria, Iceland and Croatia from the outset looks like one of the most open groups in the tournament.

Argentina are the heavy favourites to come out on top and go far in the tournament while Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria will be looking to upset the favourites.

Argentina

Qualifying: The Argentine’s struggled in their South American World Cup campaign as it took them until the last match day for their fate to be decided.

They were beaten by the likes of Bolivia and Paraguay in their campaign and required a Messi hat-trick in their last game against Ecuador to seal the third spot.

Brazil led the way comfortably finishing 13 points above Argentina and Uruguay in second three points above Argentina.

Key Players: Argentina have a plethora of options in attack, they’re that well stocked that Inter Milan’s Mauro Icardi was left at home.

They will look to their captain and talisman Messi. The Barcelona attacker is the national team all-time top goalscorer and is sure to be key to their team’s chances.

They also have Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria, Paulo Dybala and Sergio Aguero.

While the national team hasn’t always struggled to attack their defensive capabilities have been questioned. However, they have Nicolas Otamendi who was placed in PFA team of the year in their back line.

Expectations: With the depth in attacking areas including Messi their expectations will be to grace another World Cup final.

They’ve also, been to the Copa America final twice in 2015 and 2016 missing out to Chile. Argentina will be looking to go one better and to lift the famous World Cup trophy.

Nigeria

Qualifying: Nigeria finished top of their group which contained Zambia, Cameroon and Algeria. They only failed to win one of their six games losing their final game in the campaign 3-0 to Algeria.

The Super Eagles will face a familiar foe in Argentina who they beat 4-2 back in November 2017. They also came up against each other back in the 2014 World Cup group stage, as Argentina ran out 3-2 winners.

Key Players: Nigeria have many familiar faces for Premier League fans. Captain John Obi Mikel operates the midfield for the Super Eagles, while Alex Iwobi and Victor Moses are more than likely to provide the flair in the side. Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi of Leicester could also be key players in their battle to make it out of the group.

Expectations: The Super Eagles expectations will be to get out of their group. They come into the tournament the youngest with an average age of 25.9 and against more experienced sides, it would represent great success if they are to get in the top two of their group.

Iceland

Qualifying: After their unprecedented success in the 2016 European Championships, Iceland qualified top of their group ahead of Croatia.

Iceland are entering new territory having qualified for their first ever World Cup. The population of Iceland is just under 350,000 which puts their achievement in perspective.

They will come up against Croatia once more after bettering them in qualifying, they both won their home games against each other in qualifying and their matchup the final group game it could be the decider of who qualifies.

Key Players: Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson has been the stand out player for the national side over the years but hasn’t played club football since March.

Their biggest asset is teamwork however, with players such as Alfred Finnbogason scoring 12 goals in 22 games for Augsburg the team may have a goal threat.

Expectations: The team surpassed expectation when they qualified automatically but, anything is possible and will be concentrating on their games against Nigeria and Croatia as they look to get out of their group and surprise football again.

Croatia

Qualifying: Croatia were firm favourites to come out on top in their qualifying group but, stumbled late on losing to Turkey and drawing to Finland, this resulted in the sacking of their manager Ante Cacic going into their final game.

They managed to secure a 2-0 victory away to Ukraine to seal a playoff spot. They were drawn against Greece and a 4-1 opening win was enough to gain qualification after drawing the second leg 0-0 in Greece.

They come up against Iceland yet again and will look to use their tournament experience to beat their familiar foes.

Key Players: Captian Luka Modric will be key to their success the Real Madrid midfielder has been playing at the highest level for years and coming off his third Champions League win the club he is inform going into the tournament.

Their midfield is their biggest asset, Modric is joined by club teammate Mateo Kovacic and Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic. Add in Milan Badelj and Marcelo Brozovic and it’s an area that they have a wealth of talent.

As for further up the pitch Marko Manduzkic and Ivan Perisic will be expected to provide the finishing touch.

Expectations: The minimum expectation will be to get out of the group, however with such a competitive group there may be a chance for an upset. If they can be successful in group D, Croatia will set their sights on a quarter-final appearance.

Fixtures:

16/06/18, 14:00: Argentina vs Iceland (ITV)

16/06/18, 20:00: Croatia vs Nigeria (ITV)

21/06/18, 19:00: Argentina vs Croatia (BBC ONE)

22/06/18, 16:00: Nigeria vs Iceland (BBC ONE)

26/06/18. 19:00: Iceland vs Croatia (BBC FOUR)

26/06/18. 19:00: Nigeria vs Argentina (BBC ONE)