As we have already discussed in our previous blog, Group D can be touted as the group of death of this World Cup. Tomorrow’s clash between Argentina and Croatia takes place between two of the strongest teams in the group, with Argentina and Croatia being ranked 5th and 20th respectively compared to 22nd ranked Iceland and 48th ranked Nigeria. However, it is interesting to note that these two sides have had their fair share of trouble and controversy in the past few months. The decision to snub Mauro Icardi for the squad was not taken well by certain sections of the supporters, as some see it to be politically driven against the Inter man. Luka Modric and Dejan Lovren have been embroiled in a court case involving Zdravko Mamic, who is considered to be the most powerful figure in Croatian football.
- Argentina boast a star-studded attack with Sampaoli having the luxury to choose from players such as Messi, Aguero, Di Maria, Dybala and Higuain. Do not forget the fact that players such as Angel Correa and Mauro Icardi, regulars for Atletico Madrid and Inter, failed to make the squad. Such is the talent the country boasts.
- Croatia on the other hand have a well rounded attack and in the form of Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Perisic and Marko Pjaca, they boast enough ammunition to hurt any defence in the competition.
- The midfield will be a mouth-watering battle consisting of the industry of Javier Mascherano and Lucas Biglia versus the relatively more silky combination of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic. Croatia can also call upon Inter’s Marcelo Brozovic and Madrid’s Mateo Kovacic. However, the same cannot be said about Argentina i.e if Ever Banega, Enzo Perez and Giovani Lo Celso can have a considerable impact on the game.
- In defence, doubts have been casted over Argentina’s pairing of Nicolas Otamendi and Marcos Rojo after their performance against Iceland. Statistically speaking, Croatia boast a much better defence as they have conceded one goal every 2.5 games in the qualifiers, a better record than Argentina, who conceded almost a goal every game in their qualification campaign.
- This year, Croatia have played four friendlies for their World Cup preparations out of which they have lost two and laboured to victories in the other two matches.
- Argentina’s form this year indicates nothing but bleak prospects for them as out of five scheduled fixtures, two were cancelled, then there was that definitive 6-1 humiliation at the hands of Spain and the two victories came over an Italian side which failed to even qualify for the World Cup, and the lowly-ranked Haiti team.
- Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli previously managed Chile at the 2014 World Cup, where they were knocked out in the round of 16 by Brazil. A year later he led them to Copa America glory as they beat Argentina in the final. He proved his managerial credentials with Club Universidad de Chile as he led them to three league titles and one Copa Sudamericana.
- Zlatko Dalic was instated as Croatia manager only in October last year and the manager led the team to a string of positive results which bore fruit as the team qualified for the World Cup after beating Greece in a two-legged playoff. He has minimal experience at club level in Europe with most of his experience based on his coaching of clubs in Croatia and the Middle-East.