It is the turn of Groups C and D to take the stage and battle for round of 16 positions. Seven of the eight teams involved in tonight’s action can still qualify for the knock-out phase and, depending on results, the answers will most likely not be known until the final whistle has been blown in all matches.
France are through but will be looking for another momentum-building performance against Denmark, while Australia have only one option available to them; a win against Peru and the numbers to fall in their favour if they are to finish level with the Danes.
All four teams in Group D have a chance to progress. Croatia are assured of one spot and could destroy Iceland’s hopes with another win.
The other match sees Nigeria looking to progress with a win and Argentina hoping to leapfrog both Nigeria and Iceland at the eleventh hour.
In what looms as one of the most dramatic nights of football thus far in Russia, the experts have spent countless hours deciphering the possibilities and here is the way they see things unravelling.
Make sure you have your say in the tipping form below and take on the experts.
Tips: France, draw, Croatia, Argentina
The French may rest players in their clash with Denmark, yet, the Danes fatigued early on against Australia and didn’t impress me at all. France will not want a loss entering the knockout phase and will play a side strong enough to take the points.
Australia do so much right as a team, yet lack the polish up front to convert their chances. Peru have the chance to play spoiler to their campaign and should be able to hold the Aussies to a draw. Thirty-eight-year-old Australian legend Tim Cahill should get some playing time in what could be the final match in his illustrious Socceroo career.
Croatia are slowly building their reputation as a real threat in this tournament and Iceland’s bubble of success looks to have burst. A comfortable win looms likely for Croatia.
Nigeria has everything on the line in their match with Argentina; who still have a sneaky chance to qualify. It will be against their form yet with star quality in Lionel Messi, they can never be written off. I am tipping a shock win for Argentina.
Tips: France, Australia, Croatia, Argentina
I haven’t found France particularly impressive so far, but I’m hoping they’ll do the Socceroos a favour and take care of Denmark. If nothing else, Les Bleus will want to head into the round of 16 with a degree of confidence.
I’m tipping the Peru game might be Australia’s toughest. The South Americans absolutely battered Denmark in their opening game and were it not for a missed penalty from Christian Cueva, the complexion of this group could be very different. Here’s hoping the Socceroos can fire.
Mutiny with a capital M? All the reports out of Argentina suggest Messi and Mascherano are part of a coup against coach Jorge Sampaoli. Whether Sampaoli is even on the bench for this game remains to be seen, but the Argentines should scrape through with the win they require.
Hard to see anything but a comfortable Croatia win over Iceland. The Nordic nation have been a joy to watch, but they’re unlikely to have any answers for the unstoppable-looking Luka Modric.
Tips: Australia, France, Argentina, Croatia
It all comes down to this. The Socceroos lacked conviction in attack last Thursday night, and weren’t half as unlucky to miss out on a win as many would have you believe. Changes are needed – I’d like to see Jamie Maclaren up front and Massimo Luongo given a run – and Australia will need to be wary of Peru on the counter. But they have what it takes to win this.
Whether that’s enough to get them out of Group C and into the round of 16 depends on what happens between Denmark and France. The pessimist in me fears both sides, neither of whom have been particularly convincing to date, will play out a dour draw. The optimist in me says France will want to make a statement with a commanding win over the Danes ahead of the knockout stages. Let’s go with that.
Group D was blown wide open last week with Argentina’s loss and Nigeria’s win. It leaves La Albiceleste on the verge of a sensational group-stage exit if they can’t get a Matchday 3 win.
Both teams’ last outings indicate the Super Eagles are good enough to get at least a draw. But I backed Lionel Messi to drag his team to a win in Matchday 2, and I’ll double down on that prediction for tonight.
He pulled Argentina to the World Cup with a win on the last day of qualifying and he’s good enough to produce another herculean performance when required. That’s if his teammates pass him the damn ball.
Croatia could be tempted to give some of their stars a rest with qualification already locked up. That could give Iceland the sniff of grabbing a draw – or even a win – but Zlatko Dalic’s side have been fantastic in the group stage so far and they’re good enough to finish top of Group D with three wins from as many games.
Tips: France, Australia, Croatia, Nigeria
France are slowly creeping to life in this tournament and the big hope is they get off to a fast start here – I think, without a goal, these two teams might settle for a slow, one-paced game according to the draw that would suit both. The more Denmark have to come out and attack the game, the more likely France tear them up on the counter.
I’m not being patriotic picking Australia, here – I genuinely think we should beat Peru. Although the South Americans have been fun to watch in attack, we’ve been the far more rounded team in our group games. The big issue is, of course, scoring goals, but this where I’m being optimistic.
Argentina’s descent into chaos against Croatia was wholly reflective of Jorge Sampaoli’s demeanour on the touchline – a team and a coach slipping quickly into madness. I can’t see them turning it around quickly, as the damage is far too deep.
Iceland needs a result, here, obviously, but Croatia have Luka Modric, who looks to be in the form of his life at this tournament. The only caveat here is that Croatia might rest a few players, having already progressed, but with top spot still to secure I don’t see this happening.
Tips: France, Australia, Argentina, Croatia
For today’s tips I have put on a script writer’s hat. And the script goes something like this: Australia win by two goals and France beats up on Denmark. It’s a delicate state of affairs to rely on a script in such an ad-lib tournament but I believe the Aussies can still make the round of 16.
The main sub-plot is a French victory over Denmark. France are still struggling to get their combinations right but their last hit out against Peru showed they are improving ever so slightly. Look to Les Bleus to finally fire and knock over Denmark by 3-1.
The chief part of the script is that Australia beats Peru. Do they have to win by a big score? Not really, the one goal they scored in their narrow loss to France puts them in a reasonable position. Any win for Australia, at the very least, should put them level with the Danes assuming Denmark loses.
The line-up change that must be made is who starts up front for the unfortunate Andrew Nabbout. Bert Van Marwijk has shown admirable faith in Tom Juric but I think Jamie Maclaren could be more dangerous. I’d also like to see Daniel Arzani get a start as Australia will breathe easier if they can score a few goals.
Peru will take some beating and won’t want to finish bottom of the group. Hopefully, this will play into Australia’s hands and our boys will pick up a 2-0 win.
Nigeria will be buoyed by their fantastic win over Iceland, and a place in the knockout rounds is tantalisingly close. Argentina were miserable against Croatia and it is hard to see how Lionel Messi and the Albiceleste can pick themselves up off the floor.
But like Germany, some teams are hard to knock over and I expect Argentina to spring a bit of a surprise. It could be one of those zany, high-scoring games where formations go out the window. Argentina to regroup and win 3-2.
Iceland were caught out against Nigeria and seemed short of ideas when things went against them. Even the thunderclap couldn’t rouse them.
Croatia hit top gear against Argentina and Luka Modric is at the top of his game and would make a World XI at the moment. Look for more Modric magic as Croatia win by two or three goals.
|Day 13||Stuart||Mike||Daniel||Tim||Paul||The Crowd|
|FRA v DEN||FRA||FRA||FRA||FRA||FRA||?|
|AUS v PER||DRAW||AUS||AUS||AUS||AUS||?|
|CRO v ICE||CRO||CRO||ARG||CRO||ARG||?|
|ARG v NIG||ARG||ARG||CRO||NIG||CRO||?|