The Super Eagles have been placed in Group D at the World Cup draw ceremony held at Moscow’s Kremlin Palace Stadium on Friday, December 1, 2017.
The Nigeria National Team were grouped alongside South-American powerhouses and perennial nemesis, Argentina, as well as Croatia and Iceland. Most eyes will be on the match between Argentina and Nigeria.
Both sides will have their fifth meeting in World Cup finals history, with the most recent coming in a 3–2 win for the Albiceleste where a Marcos Rojo goal proved the difference between the two sides.
With such depth of talent, it’s natural that fans of the Eagles will be wary of world-class players like Sergio Aguero, Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria.
However, between Croatia’s new generation and a host of Iceland players hungry to prove something on the World Stage, there are more threats that we might expect.
Here are 5 players the Super Eagles must watch out for in Group D of the Russia 2018 World Cup.
1. Gylfi Sigurdsson:
The Everton attacking midfielder will not be a stranger to most fans of the Premier League. In his years since joining England’s premier division, he has earned a reputation as a set-piece specialist with exceptional long range ability.
Sigurdsson’s technical ability, as well as his top-level experience, have made him the fulcrum of the Iceland side. Sigurdsson was among the team’s best players in qualifying, with 4 goals, including a brace against Ukraine and four assists in the process.
His passing and driving runs from the middle of the pack will be instrumental to most of Iceland’s attacks and the Eagles will need to keep him quiet if they are to get anything from the Iceland game.
2. Luka Modric:
Real Madrid’s midfield maestro is the most successful of Croatia’s so-called “extraordinary generation”, driving his Europan club side with two Champions League trophies since he left Tottenham. He’s 32.
Modric will come to Russia alongside a host of players including Inter Milan’s Perisic who have a final shot at putting up a strong challenge at the World Cup.
Croatia has a torrid qualifying campaign, losing their manager in the process. Modric didn’t perform all too well in qualifying but in Russia, the stakes will be much higher.
3. Nikola Vlasic:
Everton’s 20-year old midfielder has high expectation on him as he heads to his first world cup. He recently joined the English side from Croatia side, Hadjuk Split after impressing then-manager Ronald Koeman during a Europa League fixture.
Nigeria’s combative ball winners will need to be positionally alert as Vlasic’s knack for running at players can pose a problem.
4. Paulo Dybala:
Dybala will go to the World Cup as one of the brightest prospects in a team that has Lionel Messi, Kun Aguero, Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain and Mauro Icardi in attacking positions. The player has been a revelation, delivering on his undoubted potential with Juventus over the last year.
Usually playing on the left of an attacking three or someway behind the main striker, Dybala’s silky dribbling and direct running and eye for a goal may pose a problem for Rohr’s counter-attacking style. The Eagles’ defence has a job to do on this one.
5. Aron Gunnarsson
Sigurdsson may be the main threat in front of goal, but when the intensity reaches a certain pitch, it usually starts with the Iceland Captain. The 28-year old who plays for Cardiff City can play either at Right Back or in Midfield where he inspired the team to an unexpected win against England at Euro 2016.
His main problem is associated with the colour red; Gunnarsson’s passion can often lead to getting sent off for low-percentage tackles that hardly come off well. When he’s on the pitch though, he is the soul of the Iceland side.