Who qualifies from Group D?
Australia vs. Peru
Australia need the win if they want to stand a chance of making it to the knockout rounds while Peru can only fight for their pride. Three points would take Australia to second only if Denmark lose and Australia have a better goal difference. A win for Peru would send them home with something good while also taking them above Australia into third. Peru have shown their quality at times but Australia should have the experience to see this game through.
Denmark vs. France
With France having already qualified for the knockout stage this game could potentially decide whether they finish second or first. A win for France would take them clear of the rest while a draw would be enough to see them finish first as well, a loss would mean that they would finish behind Denmark in second. A win and a draw would be enough for Denmark but a loss could see them miss the knockout stage but only if Australia win by a good margin.
Nigeria vs. Argentina
Nigeria go into this game knowing that a win would guarantee them a place in the knockout stages while a draw and a loss could potentially not be enough. Argentina have been so far in the tournament and this game is a chance for Messi and Co to achieve some sort of redemption. Due to results in the previous match week a win for the Argentinians could shockingly see them make it to the knockout stages but only if Iceland drew or lost. It is a tight game and a win will be the priority for both teams but Argentina will have to be the team that comes out and attacks.
Iceland vs. Croatia
Iceland were spectacular in their first game against Argentina but fell flat against Nigeria, they go into this game needing a win if they want to stand a chance of qualification. An Iceland win and a Nigeria loss would send Iceland through but a draw for Nigeria would mean that the team with the better goal difference would go through. Croatia demolished Nigeria and Argentina and will be looking to make it three out of three in the group stage. Having already qualified and sealed top spot it is a good chance for the Croats to rest a few players. Iceland will have to attack while Croatia can wait and play on the counter.
Groups open up!
Nigeria 2 vs. 0 Iceland
The first half was rather boring as both sides failed to create any clear cut chances, but Nigeria came out a different side for the second half as the game opened up. A brilliant cross by Moses was thundered in by Musa in the 49th minute to give Nigeria the lead, as Iceland now started to attack. Iceland were left short at the back and a Musa added his second for the night at the 75th minute after an amazing solo run. Iceland’s support was outstanding as usual while Sigurdsson did miss a penalty in the second half. Nigeria are now in second knowing that a win against Argentina would see them through to the knockout stages while a draw would also do depending on results elsewhere. Iceland are left with the uphill task of having to beat Croatia in their last game if they are to stand a chance of qualifying to the knockout round.
Brazil 2 vs. 0 Costa Rica
The scoreline is flatters to deceive as both goals were scored in extra time, the first in the 91st minute by Coutinho and in the 97th minute by Neymar. Costa Rica will be heading home but put in a decent impression of themselves in the first two games and can go into the last with nothing to lose. Brazil are in a three way battle for qualification and nothing is guaranteed for one of the tournament favourites.
Serbia 1 vs. 2 Switzerland
Serbia got the lead in the 5th minute via a goal from Mitrović, the rest of the first half continued in the same fashion as both teams attacked but failed to convert their chances. Switzerland replied in the second half after a beautiful long range goal by Xhaka in the 52nd minute, the game seemed to be heading for a draw but Shaqiri scored in the 90th minute to give Switzerland three points and throw the group wide open. The win leaves Switzerland’s fate in their hands as a win against Costa Rica in the final game would see them reach the knockout stages. A draw could be enough but results would have to go in their favour elsewhere. Serbia play Brazil in the last game and three points for any one of the teams would mean qualification to the next round while a draw could be enough if Switzerland loses.
Argentina in trouble!
Denmark 1 vs. 1 Australia
Eriksen scored in the 7th minute to give Denmark the lead but a hand ball by Poulsen allowed Jedinak to convert a penalty in the 38th minute and equalise for the Socceroos. The game was a cagey affair, Denmark remain second with four points while Australia are third with one point.
France 1 vs. 0 Peru
Mbappé scored in the 34th minute in what was a lacklustre performance by the french. Peru are knocked out of the World Cup but restricted the French to one goal. France need to improve ahead of the knockout stages if they want to progress further in the competition.
Argentina 0 vs. 3 Croatia
After a very physical first half Rebić, Modrić, and Rakitić added second half goals to create a very narrow chance of Argentina’s qualification to the knockout stages. Argentina have a team full of stars but weird team selection by Sampaoli and a refusal to gel as a team could see them get knocked out of the group stage. Croatia are through to the knockout rounds and could be dark horses for the World Cup, Argentina seem to look like they are England’s golden age in disguise, all stars but no chemistry.
Must wins for several teams.
Nigeria vs. Iceland
Iceland continued their good form in cup competitions by achieving a point against Argentina in their first game while Nigeria were easily defeated by Croatia. For both teams this is must win game and probably the more equal fixtures of the ones they will play. Based on what was on show in the first round of games Iceland could add three points to their tally as Nigeria were poor at times against Croatia.
Brazil vs. Costa Rica
This game comes as must win for both teams, Brazil were poor as they only managed a point against Switzerland while Costa Rica played well but lost due to a brilliant free kick by Kolarov. Brazil should win on paper and probably will but if they play as they did in round 1 then Costa Rica could get one over the Brazilians.
Serbia vs. Switzerland
Serbia were the only team to manage a win in Group E for the first round of games and showed their defensive proficiency in doing so. Switzerland did well to fight for their point against Brazil but will have to aim for three points against the Serbs. Serbia showed their calibre but will have to work hard to break the Swiss defence. Switzerland will have to play on the front foot for this game.
Can Argentina bounce back?
Denmark vs. Australia
Denmark could all but secure a place in the Round of 16 with a win against Australia while it is vital for Australia to win to stand any chance of reaching the next round. Denmark narrowly edged Peru in their opening game and were far from reassuring, and Australia narrowly lost to France. Australia showed a good account of themselves and could beat Denmark to throw the group wide open.
France vs. Peru
France needed the help of VAR and a bit of luck to beat Australia, they were also poor when it came to finishing their chances. Peru provided some exciting moments of attacking football and were perhaps unlucky to lose to Denmark. A win for France should secure a spot for them in the next round but if Peru were to cause an upset then the group would become very unexpected. France should win but they will have to be far more clinical.
Argentina vs. Croatia
Argentina suffered a shock draw against Iceland in their opening game and while they created several chances they failed to convert mostly all of them. Croatia put two past Nigeria in a positive performance and if they are able to win against Argentina that will secure them a spot in the next round. For Messi and co it is plain and simple they need to win.
Not as easy as it seems.
France 2 vs. 1 Australia
France got three points against Australia thanks to VAR and a bit of luck for Paul Pogba. In what was a fairly balanced game France had more chances early on but failed to convert them as the Australian defence stood firm. The second half brought the first goal as the referee failed to award a penalty which was a minute later awarded via VAR. Griezmann scored the penalty but goals via VAR are always shrouded by controversy as the technology is still in its infancy. Australia responded soon after with a penalty of their own which equalised the scoreline in the 62nd minute via Jedinak. The game seemed to be heading for a draw but some good passing and a lob by Pogba in the 80th minute gave France all three points. France lead the group although were far from convincing. Australia can now concentrate for Denmark, and Peru.
Peru 0 vs. 1 Denmark
Denmark might have got the three points thanks to a 59th minute goal by Poulsen but it was Peru that most impressed during the game. Peru and Denmark both provided entertaining football but Peru’s wingers such as Carrillo, and Flores along with forward Farfan caused several threats. Peru did miss a penalty early one which in hindsight cost them dearly but their performance should give them encouragement for their upcoming fixtures. Denmark stood resolute during the Peru onslaught and defensively were sound but going forward the Danes lacked in finishing. Denmark are second on level with France with three points while Peru are last for now.
Argentina 1 vs. 1 Iceland
In what was arguably the result of the day Iceland managed to get a point of another formidable foe. Argentina had 27 shots compared to Iceland’s 8 and 78% ball possession. Aguero gave Argentina the lead in the 19th minute after a wonderful strike from within the box. Iceland soon equalised in the 23rd minute via Finnbogason. The second half was mostly spent in Iceland’s half as Argentina attacked one after the other. A penalty was awarded to Messi in the 64th minute but he failed to score with it unlike Ronaldo. Iceland stood firm and earned a valuable point.
Croatia 2 vs. 0 Nigeria
The last game of the day was a cagey affair as both teams only managed two shots on target throughout the game. Croatia got the lead in the 32nd minute after Etebo put the ball into the back of his own net. Luka Modrić doubled the lead in the 71st minute via a penalty. Nigeria were lacklustre and sit bottom of the group while Croatia lead the group with three points.
Four games on Day 2!
France vs. Australia
The first game of Group C comes between France and Australia. Australia have a decent squad but it is nothing compared to the players at France’s disposal. Expectations are that France will open their account with three points and a dominant victory. The only weak link in France’s team could ironically be their goalkeeper Hugo Lloris who susceptible to poor moments. France will win this game.
Peru vs. Denmark
One the interesting games during the day Peru and should offer a close contest for the fans to watch. On paper Denmark should win the game but Peru will not shy away and have nothing to lose, Peru’s fans are also out in full force and will be an impressive 12th man. The game is too close to call and the result could vary.
Argentina vs. Iceland
Iceland impressed at the Euros in 2016 and will be hoping to do so once more on the world stage. Argentina were finalists in the 2014 World Cup but lost to an impressive German side, Messi will be hoping that Argentina get off to a good start in what could be his final World Cup. Argentina are not the most reliable of teams and many a times the team relies on Messi, if Messi has a good game Argentina will do well if he goes missing then the result could be far closer.
Croatia vs. Nigeria
Croatia have been impressive during the friendlies and come up against a Nigerian side who has not done as well to prepare for the World Cup. Nigeria have several top players and will be hoping to upset a Croatian team who is not short of talent either. The winner of this game could gain a massive advantage to decide who finishes in the top two and so this game will be too close to call.
A group in which all sides have a chance of going through.
Argentina have participated in 16 World Cups, their first came in 1930 and they managed to win the competition in 1978, and 1986. In 2014 they lost the final to Germany.
Goalkeepers – Nahuel Guzman (UANL), Franco Armani (River Plate), Willy Caballero (Chelsea)
Defenders – Gabriel Mercado (Sevilla), Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax), Cristian Ansaldi (Torino), Federico Fazio (AS Roma), Marcos Acuna (Sporting Lisbon), Javier Mascherano (Hebei China Fortune), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), Eduardo Salvio (Benfica)
Midfielders – Lucas Biglia (AC Milan), Ever Banega (Sevilla), Angel Di Maria (PSG), Maximiliano Meza (Independiente), Enzo Perez (River Plate), Giovani Lo Celso (PSG), Cristian Pavon (Boca Juniors)
Forwards – Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Paulo Dybala (Juventus)
Manager – Jorge Sampaoli
Most Caps – Javier Mascherano (143)
Captain – Lionel Messi
Star Player – Lionel Messi
After losing to Germany in the previous World Cup it all went downhill for the Argentinian national team. Messi retired, and the qualification was not going as planned, but things turned around and Messi returned to rescue his nation and accomplished his task by scoring a hattrick in the final qualifier. Argentina have only managed to play one friendly before the World Cup which they won. They have a great squad and their forwards are the jewels in the team. Argentina in all likelihood will make it past the group stage and the quarter finals should be their minimum expectation.
Iceland make their first appearance in a World Cup, they do this after having impressed at Euro 2016 and gaining praise universally.
Goalkeepers – Hannes Pór Halldórsson (Randers), Frederik Schram (Roskilde), Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson (Nordsjælland)
Defenders – Birkir Már Sævarsson (Valur), Sverrir Ingi Ingason (Rostov), Ragnar Sigurdsson (Rostov), Kári Arnason (Aberdeen), Hólmar Orn Eyjólfsson (Levski Sofia), Hördur Björgvin Magnússon (Bristol City), Ari Freyr Skúlason (Lokeren)
Midfielders – Samúel Fridjónsson (Valerenga), Albert Gudmundsson (PSV), Johann Berg Gudmundsson (Burnley), Birkir Bjarnason (Aston Villa), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton), Olafur Ingi Skulason (Kardemir Karabulkspor), Aron Gunnarsson (Cardiff City), Rurik Gislason (SV Sandhausen), Emil Hallfredsson (Udinese), Amor Ingvi Traustason (Malmo)
Forwards – Bjorn Bergmann Sigurdsson (Rostov), Alfred Finnbogason (FC Augsburg), Jon Dadi Bodvarsson (Reading)
Manager – Heimir Hallgrimsson
Most Caps – Birkir Mar Sævarsson (79)
Captain – Aron Gunnarsson
Star Player – Gylfi Sigurdsson
Iceland make their first appearance in a World Cup and having exceeded expectations in Euro 2016 they are in group which can help them replicate those performances. Iceland played two friendlies losing one and drawing the other. Reaching the World Cup is already a great achievement for the nation, and with the exception of Argentina they can easily challenge for the second place spot. Expectations are that Iceland will fall short of second place but could finish a respectable third in tough group.
Croatia have played in four World Cups till now their first coming in 1998 in which they also finished third in the competition.
Goalkeepers – Dominik Livaković (Dinamo Zagreb), Lovre Kalinić (Gent), Danijel Subašić (Monaco)
Defenders – Šime Vrsaljko (Atletico Madrid), Ivan Strinić (Sampdoria), Vedran Ćorluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool), Tin Jedvaj (Bayer Leverkusen), Duje Ćaleta-Car (Red Bull Salzburg), Domagoj Vida (Besiktas), Josip Pivarić (Dynamo Kyiv)
Midfielders – Ivan Rakitić (Barcelona), Mateo Kovačić (Real Madrid), Luka Modrić (Real Madrid), Marcelo Brozović (Inter Milan), Filip Bradarić (Rijeka), Milan Badelj (Fiorentina)
Forwards – Ivan Perišić (Inter Milan), Andrej Kramarić (1899 Hoffenheim), Nikola Kalinić (AC Milan), Mario Mandžukić (Juventus), Ante Rebić (Eintracht Frankfurt), Marko Pjaca (Schalke 04)
Manager – Zlatko Dalic
Most Caps – Luka Modrić (106)
Captain – Luka Modrić
Star Player – Luka Modrić
Croatia are favourites to qualify from the group along with Argentina, they always ply beautiful football and are at times unlucky to not make it further in competitions. Croatia played two friendlies to prepare for the summer, losing one and winning the other. With some brilliant players in the squad and Modrić pulling the strings Croatia should make it past the group stage and could make it up to the quarter finals. A favourable draw could only see them go farther.
Nigeria have participated in five World Cups, having reached the round of 16 in 94, 98, and 2014. Their first World Cup came in 1994.
Goalkeepers – Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Enyimba), Daniel Akpeyi (Chippa United), Francis Uzoho (Deportivo La Coruna)
Defenders – Brian Idowu (Amkar Perm), Elderson Echiéjilé (Cercle Brugge), William Troost-Ekong (Bursaspor), Leon Balogun (Mainz 05), Shehu Abdullahi (Bursaspor), Chidozie Awaziem (Nantes), Tyronne Ebuehi (ADO Den Haag), Kenneth Omeruo (Kasimpasa)
Midfielders – Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester), Oghenekara Etebo (Las Palmas), John Obi Mikel (Tianjin TEDA), Joel Obi (Torino), Ogenyi Onazi (Trabzonspor), John Ogu (Hapoel Be’er Sheva)
Forwards – Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow), Odion Ighalo (Changchun Yatai), Victor Moses (Chelsea), Simeon Nwankwo (Crotone), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal)
Manager – Gernot Rohr
Most Caps – John Obi Mikel (85)
Captain – John Obi Mikel
Star Player – John Obi Mikel
Whether they do well in the World Cup depends on the Nigerian team but they have already won best kit of the competition. Nigeria have some star players in the squad especially in their midfield and forward lines. John Obi Mikel provides the experience and strength at the centre of all movements forward with players like Moses, Iwobi, and Musa providing the attacking threat. Nigeria could make it to the round of 16 but anything more would be a bonus and their best performance in a World Cup.