A country led by the worlds best player will try to accomplish something they haven’t done since 1986, win the FIFA World Cup. Will this be the last time we see the 30-year-old Lionel Messi with the National team, many believe so, and if true, expect #10 to go out with a statement.
Jorge Sampaoli will manage Los Albicelestes hopes of a 3rd title. The 58-year-old Argentine has had his fair share of success managing on the international level, with one of his most recent accomplishments in leading Chile to their first Copa America title in 2015 on home soil vs. Argentina. Sampaoli is known for his offensive tactics, but also ask his players to work extremely hard by pressing opposing teams all over the field. His units are built on high energy, high pressing, and quick passing into spaces.
The 2018 edition of Argentina, will bring a good mixture of youth and experience, something that will suit them well later in the tournament. Four of the members on this team are on the top 10 list of most capped players in the National Teams history. Javier Mascherano is tied with Javier Zanetti for most caps with 143, with Russia being his final curtain call and his chance to surpass the legend.
Los Albicelestes, have had success on the International level, but raising cups has been a problem in the teams’ History books. Losing the Final in 2014, and back to back losses in Copa America Finals, Argentina will have to be extra special to lift the FIFA World Cup Trophy in 2018, after limping into this year’s competition and relying on their Captian excessively as of late.
The Europeans with all the talent, but that always seems to disappoint. Currently, the 18th ranked team in the world in the latest FIFA rankings, the Croatians hope to navigate through Russia with the same success they shared in 1998.
After becoming independent from Yugoslavia in 1990, Croatia formed its team and was finally recognized by FIFA in 1993. Since the changes, the UEFA representers have only failed to make the World Cup once, finishing third in their first appearance in 1998. Led by the tournaments leading scorer Davor Šuker, putting the countries football on the map and giving them their highest ranking in history.
2018, the Croatian squad brings arguably one of the best midfields in the tournament. Directed by two of the worlds best midfielders, Luka Modric (Real Madrid) and Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona), will command the center of the formation on a team that thrives on patience and relies on experience throughout the roster. Modric 104 Caps, Rakitic 90, and the heady striker Mario Mandžukić who is second all-time on goals with 30.
Zlatko Dalić will command the Europeans through Russia hoping to get them out of the group stages for the first time since 1998.
Euro 2016 Cinderella and fan favorite Iceland, will be making its first appearance in a World Cup. “Our Boys” stole the spotlight in The Euro 2016 competition, much attributed to their followers and their representation as a whole in that tournament. It’s reported that 10% of the countries total population made it to France to support Iceland in 2016.
At the Euros 2016, they were under the radar but were the tournaments most fascinating team reaching the quarter-finals after defeating England in the Round of 16. They failed to reach Brazil 2014, after losing a playoff with group foe Croatia, but then they qualified as the worlds smallest country to ever participate in a major FIFA tournament in the 2016 Euros, and now they travel to Russia, as the smallest to ever make a FIFA World Cup.
Heimir Hallgrímsson has been with Iceland as an assistant since 2011 but was promoted as manager in 2016. He carries the team with momentum after qualifying on the back of a 7-2-1 record and a +9 goal differential.
The draw, extremely tough, but Iceland will be up to the task and hope to create magic once again.
The “Super Eagles” enter Russia in 2018 as the 47th ranked team in the World. Since reaching their first World Cup in 1994, Nigeria has qualified for 6 of the last 7 tournaments only missing Germany 2006.
Since making their debut in 1994, the Super Eagles have become somewhat of an International Rival of Group nemesis Argentina. The teams have now met in the last three tournaments and 4 of the previous 5 World Cups, with the South Americans dominating 5-2-1.
The Nigerian hopes and expectations are as high as ever, after running through the African qualifiers group of death in Zambia, Algeria, and Cameroon. The Super Eagles plowed through the group and became the first African nation to punch their ticket to Russia.
Led by the German Gernot Rohr, who also is the teams Technical Adviser, Nigeria feeds off Captain John Obi Mikel and his notable match experience attached to the runs of Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho. Chelsea’s Victor Moses also backs the midfield giving the team plenty of structure from top to bottom. Group D is one that leaves a lot to be answered, and the Super Eagles have a good chance to reach the round of 16 where if they can win the group, they can face off vs. a beatable Peru, Denmark, or Australia.