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World Cup: Group D Betting Preview and Best Wagers

Eastern Hemisphere(2 teams) @ Western Hemisphere(2 teams)

  • Where: Otkritie Arena, Various. Moscow, Various
  • When: June 16, 2018 9:00 am EST
  • Moneyline: Argentina (-180), Croatia (+225), Nigeria (+1000), Iceland (+1200)

Argentina’s win over Peru at the 1978 World Cup is still hotly debated by football nerds. The Argentinians needed to prevail by 4 or more goals to advance. Peru’s goalkeeper, born in Argentina and pressured by members of both governments, played one of the worst games of his FIFA career. Deliberately or not, Peru lost 6-0 that day.

We can be relatively sure there won’t be as much controversy surrounding Group D at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. But make no mistake, Croatia, Nigeria and Iceland will probably put up a tougher battle than Peru did in ’78.

Will it be enough to take down the Group D favourite? Supporters are quite concerned about La Albiceleste after Messi had to rescue the squad against Ecuador in qualifying. Without the great striker’s heroics, it could have been a scandal to rival the one 40 years ago.

Organizers are already disappointed that the United States didn’t qualify, causing a drop in the amount of Yankee dollars spent on the World Cup. Just imagine if Argentina missed qualifying for the first time since 1970!

Let’s take a closer look at the problems surrounding the South American stalwart.

Don’t cry for me, Argentina

Gonzalo Higuaín has let supporters down in a few too many FIFA events. Despite being 30 years old and having a corker season for Juventus, Higuain has not been considered a lock to appear in the World Cup.

New manager Jorge Sampaoli likes what he sees from the legendary club striker in friendlies. But if Higuain fails yet again to deliver on the biggest stage, he could be well-advised to remain in Europe year-round.

Lionel Messi will steal the show every so often, as the legendary striker always does. Also, as with any traditional football power, it must be taken into account that the back line and midfield will be rank-and-file stronger than most of their counterparts in group play. Manchester U’s goalkeeper Sergio Romero is still a force.

Results don’t lie, however. WC qualifying fixtures included scoreless draws with Uruguay and Peru, and Argentina lost a friendly 6-1 to Spain on March 27th. The lack of overall effectiveness has bettors scrambling to find a better option in Group D.

Blazing a path

Croatia is the most obvious option, at just over 2/1 odds to advance with top position. But much like the Argentinians, this is a side that looks better on paper than on the pitch.

There is loads of talent. Real Madrid’s Luka Modrić can score against any goalkeeper in the world, and will have Barcelona teammate Mateo Kovacic alongside him in the midfield.

Juventus youngster Marko Pjaca is a threat as a kick-and-chase weapon, and forward Mario Mandzukić is skilled to world class.

No amount of talent can cure a lack of cohesiveness, however. Goals have been at a premium for Croatia, especially in FIFA qualification matches. The Blazers slipped past Kosovo 1 to nil, slogged through a 1-1 draw with Finland, and lost 1-0 to Turkey. The national squad has only scored more than once in a match twice since 2016. It calls leadership into question. Manager Zlatko Dalić will have a lot to prove in Moscow.

Nigeria and Iceland

The Icelandic side is a first-time World Cup entry and a marvelous story. Everton standout Gylfi Siggurdson has led “Our Boys” to a historic berth as the smallest country ever to qualify.

Is there quality beyond the stand-alone star? Aging GK Hannes Halldórsson has proven himself reliable in big matches, but there are a number of younger keepers hoping to supplant him soon. French club striker Kolbeinn Sigþórsson will be crucial in the bouts with Croatia and Argentina – can he beat either backstop? Or will his goals dry up as the competition stiffens?

As for Nigeria, they are lacking on defense but not in attacking brilliance. Alex Iwobi is a terrific forward from Arsenal who shines in the counterattack. Veteran World Cup handicappers think the African side will be impotent against more-disciplined squads with more depth. But a near-perfect showing in qualification matches against tough African nations showed that the Nigerians are formidable indeed.

What are the best bets in Group D?

Click to wager on Argentina (-650) or Nigeria (+220) to advance to the knockout phase of the FIFA World Cup and get a sign-up reward from Bovada.

We’re not liking any futures pick on the group winner. Argentina is at short odds and a short fuse from their supporters, Croatia could conceivably play well or poorly, and Iceland is inexperienced.

However, markets on odds-to-advance are another story. Romero’s stingy keeping makes Argentina a near-lock to advance and a solid wager even at short (-650) odds. Think of it like putting a few pounds in a savings account with tax-free interest.

Meanwhile, Nigeria is an excellent underdog futures pick to advance at (+220). We think they’ll out-play the green Icelanders and win or draw against at least one of the minus-odds nations.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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