Every single time in a multi-stage tournament, as soon as the teams are placed in certain groups, the first thing every fan and the pundits look for is the group of death.
Normally, there are four teams clubbed together in a group in football competitions while it could be three or more than four in other sports or tournaments. So whatever the number of teams in a competition is, there is always a group which leaves fans in tears and teams in tatters.
So what is a group of death?
A Group of death is the one which has the potential winners or the opponents who are expected to go further in the tournament than other teams with a low profile. For example, in FIFA World Cup where there are four teams in each group and only two could qualify to the knockout stages, there could be three powerful teams in the same group.
The 2014 fiasco!
Who could forget the infamous 2014 world cup which happened to be a nightmare for both Italy and England? Both these teams were in the Group D along with formidable Uruguay and dynamic Costa Rica. Everybody knows what happened as both these European giants failed to get past the first hurdle and ended up getting knocked out from the competition with Costa Rica and Uruguay finishing 1st and 2nd in the group respectively.
No group of death in 2018?
But for the first time in many years, no more than two big teams are in the same group, while the other two remaining teams are expected to be ousted come the end of the group stage. Some notables groups are – Portugal and Spain in Group B, Peru, Denmark, and France in Groups C, Belgium, and England in Group G, so all these teams should, in theory, at least reach the knockout stages. But Group D is the one where we may see some shock as it has Argentina, the young and vibrant Nigeria, European powerhouse Croatia and the giant-killer Iceland in it.
Take a look at this group and the schedule –
Team – Argentina
World Cup History – 17th Appearance, Champions in 1978 and 1986
Form – The 2014 runners-up really struggled to qualify for the World Cup and at one stage it looked like as if a World Cup without Lionel Messi was a possibility. But thanks to Messi himself, a brilliant hat-trick in the last game against Ecuador in the South American World Cup qualification match, paved the way for Argentina to make their 17th World Cup appearances.
Since that match, Argentina have played three matches, winning once against Italy while losing to Nigeria (4-1) and Spain (6-1) in the other two games.
vs Iceland, 16th June, 6:30 PM, Spartak Stadium
vs Croatia, 21st June, 11:30 PM, Nizhny Novgorod Stadium
vs Nigeria, 26th June, 11:30 PM, Saint Petersburg Stadium
Team – Croatia
World Cup History – 5th Appearance, Third place finish in 1998
Form – Croatia are a very talented team with world class players in almost all the positions. They qualified for their 5th World Cup appearance via the playoffs as they thumped Greece 4-1 on aggregate.
Luka Modric is their talismanic while the likes of Ivan Perisic and Ivan Rakitic makes up a formidable midfield. Mario Mandzukic, on the other hand, knows how to find the back of the net, giving Croatia a good repertoire at the front.
But can all these players emulate their club form at the biggest of the stages?
vs Nigeria, 17th June, 12:30 AM, Kaliningrad Stadium
vs Argentina, 21st June, 11:30 PM, Nizhny Novgorod Stadium
vs Iceland, 26th June, 11:30 PM, Rostov Arena
Team – Iceland
World Cup History – First Appearance in 2018
Form – A small country with 330,000 people made the mockery of England at the Euro 2016 as they kicked the Three Lions out of Euro with a 2-1 victory in the round of 16. It was quite an achievement for Iceland who were making their 1st ever appearance in any global competition. But if you think that it was a shock then you are making a mistake as they emulated their performance of Euro in World Cup qualification and went on to top the group which also had Croatia, Ukraine, and Turkey in it. This is a talented team with Gylfi Sigurdsson is their star man.
vs Argentina, 16th June, 6:30 PM, Spartak Stadium
vs Nigeria, 22nd June, 08:30 PM, Volgograd Arena
vs Croatia, 26th June, 11:30 PM, Rostov Arena
Team – Nigeria
World Cup History – 6th Appearance, Round of 16 – 1994, 1998, 2014
Form – The first team to qualify from Africa did so in style, beating Cameroon, Zambia, and Algeria in style. Nigeria finished second behind Argentina in 2014 and beat the group leaders in Moscow last month.
With Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho and Victor Moses among the bright young things in Gernot Rohr’s squad there is certainly reason to believe Nigeria could at least match their best finish in the World Cup by reaching the round of 16.
vs Croatia, 17th June, 12:30 AM, Kaliningrad Stadium
vs Iceland, 22nd June, 08:30 PM, Volgograd Arena
vs Argentina, 26th June, 11:30 PM, Saint Petersburg Stadium