Another group that was considered open and shut, is turning out to be extremely dramatic. After Iceland first stunned the world by knocking England out of the Euros, and then again by holding runners up, Argentina, to a draw, they now take on Croatia. The dynamics of the group changes with goal. In the other game, a desperate Argentina will take on Nigeria.
Looking up the table, it is clear that Croatia have already qualified and have nothing to play for today. Their two wins from two games ensures that they are one of the teams in the round of 16 which leaves Argentina, Nigeria, and Iceland fighting for the next spot. Iceland will qualify if they beat Croatia and Nigeria lose to Argentina. They also qualify if the Argentina-Nigeria game ends in a draw. However, the number of goals makes a big difference. Because both of the above results will only put Iceland level on points with the second placed team. The goal difference will ultimately decide the winner. Effectively, today three teams compete with each other.
However, my prediction is that Croatia and Iceland will end in a draw and Nigeria will edge Argentina by a small margin. That would mean that Croatia and Nigeria qualify for the round of 16, knocking last world cup’s runners up out.
Predicted Lineup for Croatia:
Goalkeeper: Danijel Subasic
The Monaco goalkeeper has been great this world cup and should retain his place without doubt.
Defence: Sime Vrsaljko, Dejan Lovren, Domagoj Vida, Ivan Strinic
This defence is yet to concede a goal in the World Cup and also kept Messi and Aguero quiet. Their game by the wings has been very good and that has been down to their full backs. Vida and Lovren have formed a great partnership and seem very strong at the back.
Midfielders: Ivan Rakitic, Marcelo Brozovic, Ante Rabic, Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic
This is one of the best mid-fields in the World Cup this time. Luka Modric has been phenomenal in the last two games despite playing in two different positions so far. He was better in the number ten role against Argentina. Manchester United’s missed target Ivan Perisic works extremely hard on the left wing. And Barcelona’s Rakitic was superb against Argentina scoring the last goal.
Forwards: Mario Mandzukic
Mario Mandzukic is very good at hold up play and his link up with the midfielders has jelled perfectly. Though he is yet to score a goal, he has been instrumental upfront, setting Modric up for his sublime passes.
Predicted Score: 2-2