World Cup 2018 Fantasy Football - Group D Preview & Tips

10:44pm Jun 8 2018

It’s all eyes on Lionel Messi in World Cup Group D, as Argentina looks favourites to top the Group in style

Arguably the best footballer in the world features in this group, aiming to finally deliver for his country and based on their FIFA ranking, progressing to the knockout stages looks like a formality.

The second qualification spot is likely to be closely contested between talented Croatia and underdogs Iceland, with Nigeria making up the numbers.

Argentina (5)

Argentina have to be the favourites to win their group, with a classy squad, particularly in attack.

They have options in several positions, making their preferred starting XI challenging to pinpoint.

Things have the potential to go wrong at the back, making scoring goals crucial to their prospects in this tournament.

Hot Pick: Messi
Differential Pick: Aguero
Set Piece Taker: Di Maria
Nailed Starters: Otamendi and Messi

Messi has been in and out of the national team a number of times in the last few years, blaming himself for their lack of trophies, but he’s back and set to light up another World Cup.

His contributions to their Copa America campaign, with 5 goals and 2 assists, took them all the way to the final and a hat trick in their final World Cup qualifying game gives a timely reminder of his capabilities.

Despite having a few miles on the clock, he’s had another excellent season for Barcelona, with 45 goals and 18 assists, plus he will be on penalties.

Unfortunately, in tournament long fantasy games, the world’s best player is likely to come with a big price tag – Aguero, however, could provide a cheaper way into the phenomenal Argentinian attack, with a lower ownership too.

He has recently come back from injury which could cause some concern and has been far less prolific for the national team over the years compared with his Manchester City output: 30 goals and 7 assists is an impressive tally domestically.

If Messi is having an off-day, Di Maria can provide the creativity required to unpick defences and should have some share of set pieces, including corners and indirect free kicks.

Despite rotation being likely in the midfield, Di Maria has been a regular pick during the qualifying campaign and has had another sound season for PSG, delivering 21 goals and 15 assists respectively.

Unfortunately, elsewhere on the pitch, the line up becomes more difficult to call. The defence could be potentially shaky, with first choice keeper Romero out with injury.

Otamendi has the experience and solidity needed in defence, plus he’s always a threat from set pieces: he scored five times for Manchester City this season.

Argentina kept five clean sheets in qualifying, it remains to be seen if they can keep some shut outs on the big stage.

Iceland (22)

Iceland will be hopeful of their chances in the group stages: they were the dark horses of Euro 2016, knocking England out to reach the quarter finals.

High on confidence, this small nation will be looking to pip Croatia to the knockout rounds this time.

Don’t expect them to score a lot of goals, they’ll keep things tight and hope to capitalise from set plays.

Key Player: Sigurdsson
Set Piece Taker: Gudmundsson
Nailed Starters: Gunnarsson, Finnbogason

Gylfi Sigurdsson is the star in this Icelandic team and those who follow the Premier League closely will know his capabilities. He’s an attacking midfielder, who can produce quality deadballs too.

He’s a player who excels when playing for his country, getting 4 goals and 4 assists in qualifying – he takes penalties too. Expect him to be at the centre of the action and involved in the goals.

A poor domestic season, blighted by injury means that we may need to be cautious with the Iceland star man but for now, he’s the stand out fantasy pick from the Icelandic squad.

Alongside Gylfi, Gudmunsson looks set to share some of Iceland’s set piece duties, having proven himself at club level this season. He’s emerging as a talented player, scoring 2 and assisting 4 for Burnley this season.

Elsewhere, Gunnarsson and Finnbogason could be among the providers. Gunnarsson has a mean throw-in on him, which could cause a shaky Argentine defence problems in their opening game, plus Nigeria later in proceedings.

Striker Finnbogason has had a decent domestic season, with 12 goals and 3 assists – all are options worthy for your consideration.

Croatia (18)

Croatia have plenty of talent in their squad and will be aiming for the last 16 and beyond. They should qualify within the top two, but anything can happen in tournament football, as we all know.

They have a very well-balanced squad, with some big players well-known in Europe. Expect plenty of goals, plus some clean sheets too.

Their final group game against Iceland will be pivotal.

Key Player: Modric
Set Piece Taker: Perisic
Nailed Starters: Vrsaljko, Mandzukic and Modric

Real Madrid midfielder Modric is the star in this Croatian team. He may not be a fantasy asset at club level, but he usually takes up a more advanced position for the national team, at Number 10.

The team captain is also Croatia’s penalty taker and looks likely to improve on his domestic statistics from this season.

Alongside Modric, Perisic provides plenty of talent down the wing  and has a clear goal threat. He’s struggled to make a mark in their recent qualifying campaign, with just two goals, but he has had an excellent domestic season for Inter Milan: 11 goals and 11 assists show his quality. Expect him to take a fair share of set pieces also.

Elsewhere, striker Mandzukic should be a reasonably priced first choice striker in tournament long fantasy formats: he’s had a quiet season for Juventus, although he did score five goals in qualifying.

The defence looks firm, with 6 clean sheets over qualification. Right-back Vrsaljko looks the pick of the back line, carrying a decent assist threat – he’s got five for his club this season.

Nigeria (47)

It looks like a tough task for Nigeria in this group, with the other teams involved having far higher FIFA rankings and much more talent.

They will do well to take any points during the group round and their players ought to be avoided for fantasy purposes. The best thing about their World Cup will be that gorgeous jersey!

Key Player: Moses
Set Piece Taker: Moses
Nailed Starter: Iwobi and Moses

Victor Moses is the star player in this Nigerian team in my opinion – plus he’s far more effective as an attacking winger than he is for Chelsea stuck at right-wing back.

He was crucial in their qualification campaign, with 3 goals and an assist, including from the spot – expect to see him getting into advanced positions and putting tempting crosses into the box for his peers.

Elsewhere, it’s slim pickings, with Arsenal midfielder Iwobi among the best of the rest. He’s still emerging for the Nigerian national side, but did contribute a couple of goals in qualifying.

He managed to break into the Arsenal squad this season following the departure of Sanchez, managing five goals and seven assists. Don’t expect too much from them though!

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