You can argue about which game in the group stage is the most important on the FIFA World Cup but it’s hard to imagine any single game being more important than those on Matchday 1. This is especially true in groups where there are 4 teams with a legitimate shot at moving on to the next round. That is what we have in Group D, where Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, and Nigeria all reside. Losing the opener in this group could prove to be brutal, especially for the two teams hooking up here, since both will still need to face Argentina, the group favorites, after this one. While losing the opener does not necessarily mean that you are automatically out, it definitely places a team in a hole that has been notoriously tough to dig out of, especially when there are still two very difficult games to come. This is why so many matchdays 1 games are of the rather tight variety. No team wants to find themselves in that hole, so we can probably expect this one to be a rather cautious affair.

Game Information

🏆: #WorldCup
⚽: Croatia Vs Nigeria (Group Stage, Group D, Matchday 1 of 3)
🏟️: Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad
⏰: Saturday, June 16 at 3 PM EST
📺: FOXSports
🎰: Croatia -½, -1 -105 | -135 | U 2, 2½ -120

2018 FIFA World Cup: Expert Pick to Win Group D

Why bet on Croatia

You cannot deny that Croatia have the talent to make a deep run in this tournament, but the question is whether they have the temperament. This is a team that always seems to be in some sort of turmoil off the pitch, and that often spills over into their performances on it. The end result is a level of inconsistency that always seems to leave them doing things the hard way. In qualifying, they were up and down, and only managed to land in second, which put them into a playoff with Greece. It was there that Croatia showed what they can be, beating the Greeks 4-1 over the two legs. Since qualifying, though, they have returned to being totally erratic, which they simply cannot afford to be in a group that is this tough.

FIFA World Cup Croatia Vs Nigeria 1

Why bet on Nigeria

Nigeria were very impressive in their to the World Cup, especially when you consider that they had a tough qualifying group that included Cameroon and Algeria. Playing in a difficult group like they did there will serve them well for the challenge to come here. Once they qualified, they thumped Argentina, who they will play later in Group D, 4-2 in a friendly last November. It has been all downhill from there, though, as the Nigerians have failed to win in the 4 games that they have played since that famous victory. This is a team that has a very good blend of youth and experience, and they really do seem to have come together very nicely. Their glaring weakness lies in the goalkeeper position, which may be a problem for a team looking to get beyond the group stage.

FIFA World Cup Croatia Vs Nigeria 2

Expert Pick and Final Score Prediction

I think this is going to be a typically cautious Matchday 1 games, as neither team can afford to lose. I have Croatia winning a close one here.

Predicted Score: Croatia 1 Nigeria 0

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