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World Cup 2018 groups: all the first stage games and latest analysis

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With just 330,000 people, Iceland are the smallest country ever at the World Cup.

The city of Moscow alone outnumbers Iceland’s entire population 40 times over, but this is a team of giant-killers.

Last year’s run to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals, knocking out England on a memorable night in Nice, showed the talent and determination in Iceland’s team. Qualifying for the World Cup ahead of Croatia and Ukraine proved last year wasn’t a one-off.

Expecting more success in Russia might be optimistic, but with Iceland’s passionate fans and their “thunderclap” chant, nothing can be ruled out.

  • Key player: Aron Gunnarsson (Cardiff City) – Gylfi Sigurdsson may be the main attacking threat, but bearded captain Gunnarsson inspires a gritty team.
  • Coach: Heimir Hallgrimsson – Not many teams are coached by a dentist, but Iceland aren’t most teams. Took sole charge after co-coach Lars Lagerback left last year.

CROATIA

Croatia had to squeeze through the play-offs for the second straight World Cup despite having at their disposal a generation of players capable of making the difference. Led by playmaker Luka Modric alongside Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Rakitic and Ivan Perisic, Croatia are on paper a tough team to beat.

They need the players to replicate their club form on the international stage at a major tournament.

  • Key player: Luka Modric (Real Madrid) – Croatia look at Modric, their undisputable leader in hopes to emulate the third-place finish at the 1998 World Cup.
  • Coach: Zlatko Dalic – Took charge of a critical situation with one game remaining in the qualifying. Presided over a victory over Ukraine 2-0, then Croatia overcame Greece in the play-offs.

NIGERIA

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