[Profile] See Nigeria’s Opponents At The 2018 Russia World Cup
Argentina (pot 1)
Pedigree: Argentina have won the World Cup twice – in 1978 and 1986 – and been runners-up on three occasions, in 1930, 1990 and in Brazil in 2014, when they lost 1-0 to Germany in the final.
Key player: Lionel Messi. Messi, who has been voted the best player in the world on five occasions, scored the hat-trick in the last round of South American Qualifying against Ecuador to take Argentina to the finals.
Premier League players: Sergio Aguero and Nicolas Otamendi (both Manchester City), Sergio Romero (Manchester United), Manuel Lanzini (West Ham).
Who’s the boss: Former Chile boss Jorge Sampaoli, who guided Chile to the Copa America in 2015, became Argentina boss in May 2017. He succeeded in his first task – to ensure Argentina qualified for the World Cup.
Croatia (pot 2)
Pedigree: Croatia gained admission to Fifa in June 1993, meaning they were too late to compete for a place at the finals in the United States in 1994. However, they qualified for a finals at the first time of asking at France 98 and have reached all but one of the five summer tournaments since. Their best performance to date remains their first, when Davor Suker, Zvonimir Boban et al helped them to a third place finish after losing to hosts and eventual winners France in the semis.
Key player: Luka Modric – once of Tottenham, now at Real Madrid – is the creative force at the heart of the Croatia side. Blessed with superb touch and vision, the 32-year-old has won the Champions League three times with his current club. He recently clocked up a century for his country, for whom he has scored 12 times.
Luke Modric moved to Real Madrid from Tottenham for £30m in August 2012
Premier League players: Dejan Lovren (Liverpool), Nikola Vlasic (Everton)
Who’s the boss? Zlatko Dalic’s reign as Croatia national team boss has been short and sweet thus far. He only took over in October 2017, replacing Ante Cacic, who left with one qualifying game left and the country at serious risk of failing to make the play-offs. Dalic led Croatia to a 2-0 win in Ukraine in his first game in charge to seal a play-off spot, where they dispatched Greece 4-1 on aggregate. A midfielder in his playing days, he spent the first seven years of this decade coaching in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Iceland (pot 3)
Pedigree: Iceland are heading to their first World Cup after victory over Kosovo on 9 October secured their place in Russia. This is clearly a golden era for the Icelanders after they reached Euro 2016, where they memorably defeated England in their second-round tie before losing 5-2 against hosts France in the quarter-finals.
Key player: It is difficult to look beyond Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson. The 28-year-old midfielder scored the opening goal against Kosovo and is a superb striker of the ball from long range.
Sigurdsson was on the scoresheet as Iceland reached the World Cup for the first time
Premier League players: Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton), Johann Berg Gudmundsson (Burnley).
Championship: Aron Gunnarsson (Cardiff City), Birkir Bjarnason (Aston Villa), Horour Bjorgvin Magnusson (Bristol City), Jon Dadi Bodvarsson (Reading).
Scottish Premiership player: Kari Arnason (Aberdeen).
Who’s the boss? Keep smiling. Heimir Hallgrimsson, 50, is a dentist who was in joint charge of the team in France alongside Swedish veteran Lars Lagerback. Hallgrimsson took sole charge after Euro 2016 and has presided over a successful qualification campaign.
Nigeria (pot 4)
Pedigree: This will be Nigeria’s sixth appearance at a World Cup – and their third in a row. They have reached the last 16 three times – 1994, 1998 and 2014 – but have never advanced beyond that stage.
Key player: Captain John Mikel Obi, the most experienced member of the squad with 80 caps, will be a key figure for the Super Eagles in Russia. This will be the former Chelsea midfielder’s second World Cup – the 30-year-old helped the team reach the knockout stages in 2014 for the first time since 1998. He now plays in China with Tianjin Teda.
John Mikel Obi helped Nigeria win the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations
Premier League players: Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Victor Moses (Chelsea), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City), Ahmed Musa (Leicester City) and Ola Aina (on loan at Hull City from Chelsea).
Who is the boss? Gernot Rohr has managed all over the world. From Nice to Gabon, Burkina Faso to Nigeria, the 64-year-old German has extensive knowledge. Rohr played at Bayern Munich and Bordeaux. He then coached Bordeaux when they lost to Bayern in the 1996 Uefa Cup final. Previous managerial jobs also include French club Nantes, Young Boys Berne in Switzerland, Tunisian side Etoile du Sahel and the Niger national team.