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Tough teams await Super Eagles after group matches

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PHOTO: NFF


• Iceland will make squads work hard, says Sampaoli

Nigeria will have to be at its best in all the group matches and hope for good fortune to realize its ambition of getting to the quarterfinal of the Russia 2018 World Cup. Some pundits actually believe that the Super Eagles must win Group D to have any realistic chance of crossing the second round.

According to the draws, qualifiers from Group B will in the second round meet with their counterparts from Group C, which include France, Australia, Peru and Denmark.France, Germany, Spain, and Brazil are the countries tipped by the pundits to win Russia 2018 simply because of the quality of players in their teams and the results of their matches in the last two years.

And so, if Nigeria finished behind Argentina in Group D, the Super Eagles will meet France in the second round, that is if Les Blues lived up to expectations and win Group C. Winning Group D will give the Super Eagles a ‘weaker’ opposition from one of Australia, Denmark and Peru.

Should the Eagles scale the second round, the competition will become tougher as they will meet the victor in the second round game between Group A winners and Group B runners up. Group A has Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay, while Group B is made up of Portugal, Spain, Morocco and Iran. Spain and Portugal, who are tipped to qualify from Group B, are expected to overcome their opponents from Group A, hence the Eagles will meet any of the Iberian countries in the quarterfinals if Nigeria scaled over the second round hurdle.

It gets even trickier in the semifinals because waiting for the Super Eagles if they were still in contention up to this stage would be either one of Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia from Group E or Group F’s Germany, Mexico, Sweden and Korea.Brazil is tipped to win Group E, while Germany is the favourite for Group F, which means that the Germans and the Brazilians will meet in the quarterfinals and wait for the winner of the first quarterfinal, which involves a team from the Super Eagles route.

To get to this stage, the Super Eagles must first qualify from Group D, which Argentina Manager, Jorge Sampaoli, describes as more difficult than the way some pundits see it.Sampaoli singles out Iceland as a team capable of upsetting the formbooks at the Russia 2018 World Cup, beginning from Group D.

Speaking on the draws, Sampaoli told Argentina’s mundoalbiceleste.com that Iceland will make Argentina and the other teams work hard to qualify from the group.He described the group opponents as “rivals that are coming with few obligations and a lot of enthusiasm for a unique opportunity as the World Cup is. They are going to make us fight but it will depend on us. We need to establish a way and be the Argentina we want to be.

“Iceland will make us work, as everyone else. Nigeria is unpredictable because it has very fast players. We need to study them well. Croatia has an excellent midfield line with Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Ivan Perisic.“They also have (Mario) Mandzukic as a No. 9. They are very strong.”

Meanwhile, Argentina has revealed that its preparation for the World Cup will hold in three cities, Buenos Aires, Barcelona and Moscow.According to the itinerary, Argentina will play a friendly match (the farewell game to the World Cup) in La Bombonera before flying out and training for six days in Spain (at FC Barcelona’s Ciudad Deportiva) prior to finally flying out to Moscow to settle in for the World Cup.

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