We are edging closer to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and one of the most interesting groups of the tournament is Group D. Argentina will be expected to win this group, although they did make hard work of qualifying, but the second place is up for grabs, and Nigeria should be targeting this position. With Iceland and Croatia in opposition, things will be tough but the group is going to be close, and every point will count.
The Super Eagles showed their strength in the African qualifying section, and a 1-0 victory over Zambia booked their place in this summer’s tournament before any other African club had made it. With this, they carry the weight of a nation on their shoulders, they have a history of performing well at these events, and this summer they will be expected to do the same again.
The draw has put Nigeria in a tough position, but has given hope to two other African teams, Egypt and Senegal. They are the most likely to reach the next round from the African contingent, but Nigeria are the ones who have the team best equipped to do so.
The latest international football betting has Nigeria 9/4 to qualify from their group. The bookmakers have them priced as third favourites, with the top two going through. As you would expect, Argentina are the favourites, with Croatia second favourites, and lastly Iceland as outsiders. The betting looks to be right based on recent events at major tournaments, and how teams have qualified, but Nigeria will fancy their chances of causing an upset.
One thing that will work in favour of the Nigerians is that a lot of their players already play their football in Europe. This won’t give them an edge because they are playing against two European teams, but it will mean they are not at a disadvantage, like they would be if this competition was held somewhere else in the world. This should help the team acclimatise, even though they are from a completely different continent, and that will help Nigeria settle early when they reach base camp.
A player like Ahmed Musa will be crucial for the Nigerians, he has previous experience of playing in Russia, and has just re-joined his former club CSKA Moscow on loan. Musa will be able to pass on his experience of playing in Russia and in the conditions there to his teammates, and that will help prepare Nigeria for the test they face in the World Cup.
While Nigeria may not have been handed the easiest draw at Russia 2018, they do have a genuine shot at making the knockout stages of the competition. They qualified with ease, and were the first African team to do so, that should ensure the team arrive in Russia with confidence and a belief they can get the job done.
The group stages will be difficult, but Nigeria have the talent to perform well, and if they do they have a great chance of qualification to the knockout round.