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Old foes Nigeria, Argentina in same group


Italy’s former defender and Guangzhou Evergrande’s coach Fabio Cannavaro displays the slip of Nigeria during the Final Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup football tournament at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow on December 1, 2017. The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held from June 14 and July 15, 2018, in 11 Russian cities. Mladen ANTONOV / AFP

Eagles To Play Against Croatia, Iceland Also
Thunder struck twice on the same spot yesterday at the Russia 2018 World Cup draws held at the Kremlin Palace, Moscow, where Nigeria was for the fifth time drawn against Argentina in the group stage of the competition. They are in Group D alongside Croatia and Iceland.

Since Nigeria debuted at the World Cup in 1994, the Super Eagles have been placed in the same group with the 1986 champions, except at the France edition of 1998.

Nigeria lost by the odd goal in all the previous confrontations in 1994, 2002, 2010 and 2014. In 1994, it ended in 1-2, 0-1 in 2002 and 2010 and 2-3 in 2014.

However, Nigeria will go into the last group game against Argentina buoyed by the fact that the Eagles have beaten the South Americans twice in friendly games, the last being the recent 4-2 win in Russia.

Nigeria has never faced 1998 third-place winners, Croatia, and Iceland at the Copa du Mundo, but the Super Eagles must be mindful of the rising profiles of the two European teams, who have shown in recent times that they can withstand any opposition no matter how highly rated.

Yesterday’s draw in Moscow also paired neighbours Spain and Portugal in the same Group B, alongside Spain’s North African neighbours, Morocco as well as Iran, while Brazil, Mexico, Sweden and Korea Republic will battle out in a very interesting Group F.

Nigeria’s first match will be against Croatia at the 35,000 –capacity Kaliningrad Stadium on June 16, 2018. Zlatko Dalic is coach of Croatia and top stars include Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic.

Nigeria’s second group match will hold at the 45,000–capacity Volgograd Arena on June 22 against debutants, Iceland.

The Nordic country with a population of 335,000 is the smallest nation ever to qualify for the World Cup, which they did by eliminating some of the strongest European nations.

The team first drew the world’s attention to their game last year when they beat England to qualify for the quarterfinals of the European Cup hosted by France.

They were in the same European qualifying group with Croatia, and topped the pool to condemn the Croatians to a play –off against Greece.

Nigeria’s final group phase game is against Argentina June 26, 2018 at the 68,000–capacity Saint Petersburg Stadium, the second biggest venue at the finals. Time is 9pm, same time that Croatia and Iceland will be battling at the Rostov Arena.

The opening match of Russia 2018 will be between Russia and Saudi Arabia by 6:00 p.m. at the 81,000–capacity Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, which will also host the final match on July 15, 2018.

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