Group D: Standings and scenarios for the last 16
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Fixtures and kick off times
Nigeria vs Argentina
Iceland vs Croatia
Both matches kick off at 20:00.
Group D live standings
These standings are live and will update throughout the final group games.
Get ready because things are about to get heavy. A single spot remains up for grabs in Group D, with Croatia the only side guaranteed a spot in the last 16.
That’s the easy part.
Now, let’s get to the complications. Argentina will be knocked out if they lose to Nigeria, regardless of the result between Iceland and Croatia. A draw between Nigeria and Argentina might be enough for the Africans, but won’t do the South Americans any good – we’ll explain why in a second.
For Iceland to progress, the very least they need to do is beat Croatia and hope that Nigeria either lose or draw against Argentina. And that goal difference is in their favour. Let’s take a look at a couple of hypothetical scores that would jiggle the goal difference around:
Nigeria 0-1 Argentina
Iceland 1-0 Croatia
Going home: Nigeria and Argentina.
Nigeria 1-1 Argentina
Iceland 1-0 Croatia
Going home: Iceland and Argentina.
And so on and so forth.
For Argentina, the pressure is on. A draw is not good enough against Nigeria, they must win in order to stand a chance.
What to expect
Nigeria and Argentina have played each other eight times, with Argentina winning five, drawing once and losing twice. The African side most recently beat them 4-2 in a friendly back in 2017. There was no Lionel Messi in that game, but his presence hasn’t really mattered for Argentina at the World Cup either. Astoundingly, Nigeria sneaked that win despite having just 34 percent possession.
There are also rumours of a revolt in the side with players reportedly not all that jazzed with coach Jorge Sampaoli. Javier Mascherano has denied this, saying it’s a completely normal relationship.
Nigeria, meanwhile, aren’t under much pressure. A win and progression would be an incredible feat but, as one of the youngest squads at the competition, their goal is to learn. What better way of doing that than by beating an Argentinian side already looking worse for wear, though.
In the other match, Croatia can afford to take it easy considering they will definitely top the group. They’ve played Iceland six times before, winning all but one fixture. If Iceland are looking for some positives, it’s that they finished above Croatia in qualifying for this tournament. They beat the Croats 1-0 in Reykjavik in June 2017.
What they are saying
“We were ahead of them in our (qualifying) group and we’ve already beaten them once in Iceland, so we at least have that confidence with us when we play them.” Part-time Iceland head coach and part-time dentist Heimir Hallgrimsson fancies his side’s chances.
Who awaits in the next round
It’s the winners and second-place finishers from Group C. That’s France for sure, with the other team yet to be decided. DM