The Otkritie Stadium, where the opening match in Pool D (Argentina vs Iceland) will be played. Photo: @otkritiearena on twitter

CAPE TOWN - With just under a week to go to the start of the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia, we run the rule over Group D. 

Argentina

The big question: Can the iconic Lionel Messi add the World Cup crown to his list of achievements? 

The Argentine great carries on his shoulders the hopes not only of the team but of an entire nation. There are other stars in the squad, like Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuian and Paulo Dybala, but, in the end, it still all boils down to Messi. If the Barcelona magician transfers his club form to the World Cup, then Argentina will have a shot. 

On the other hand, as we have seen before, there is a vulnerability in the squad; under pressure, they tend to disintegrate.

Argentina's Sergio Aguero is one to watch in Pool D. Photo: Agustin Marcarian/Reuters

Iceland 

We saw at Euro 2016, when they reached the quarter-finals, that they are team you under-estimate at your peril. 

They work hard, everything revolves around the team, not the individual, and they always perform with courage and perseverance. Coached by Heimir Hallgrímsson, Iceland, as the smallest nation to ever qualify for the World Cup finals, regularly astound watchers with the consistency of their gutsy, spirited displays - be that in victory or defeat. 

The team will rely on captain Aron Gunnarsson, and will also be hoping that Everton star Gylfi Sigurdsson returns fresh and firing after a lengthy injury.

Aron Gunnarsson will lead Iceland at #Russia2018. Photo: Adam Holt/Reuters

Croatia 

Boasting two of world’s best midfielders in Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, Croatia certainly have the surprise factor at this World Cup. 

As the focal point of everything, Modric’s role will be critical and the Real Madrid star will need all of his passing nous and leadership skill to inspire his teammates to greater heights. Coached by Zlatko Dalic, Croatia have experience to call upon in their quest to go far in the tournament; not only do they have Modric and Rakitic, but there’s also Mario Mandzukic, the pugnacious Juventus attacker, who is capable of causing any defence a headache.

One to watch for Croatia in Pool D is Luka Modric. Photo: Antonio Bronic/Reuters

Nigeria 

While always able to call on talented footballers, Nigeria has, in the past, lacked discipline, both on and off the field. 

With the appointment of Gernot Rohr as coach, this has seemingly changed, with the west African squad looking a lot more settled and together.

Nigeria still lean on the midfield influence of John Obi-Mikel and Victor Moses, while in attack they will hoping emerging players like Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho can rise to the occasion.

Coach Gernot Rohr and his Nigeria 'Super Eagles' will carry the flag for Africa in Pool D. Photo: Darren Staples/Reuters

Who will go through to the next round? 

Argentina and Croatia



Cape Argus 

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