For the fifth time in six FIFA World Cup appearances, Nigeria will be playing against Argentina in the group phase come next year summer in Russia.
Three –time African champions Nigeria will also tackle European teams Iceland and Croatia in Group D.
Friday’s Final 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 played against Argentina in the group phase of the FIFA World Cup in 1994, 2002, 2010 and 2014, losing narrowly on each occasion. The venue was Foxboro Stadium, Boston in 1994 (2-1 Argentina), Ibaraki Arena in 2002 (1-0 Argentina), Ellis Park, Johannesburg in 2010 (1-0 Argentina) and Porto Alegre in 2014 (3-2 Argentina).
However, in a friendly game on Russian soil (Krasnodar) on 14th November (only 17 days ago), the Super Eagles came from two goals down to defeat the two –time world champions 4-2.
Argentina won the FIFA World Cup title in 1978 and 1986, and were losing finalists in Italy in 1990 (lost to Germany courtesy of a late penalty) and in Brazil in 2014 (beaten in extra time by Germany).
In Russia, the Super Eagles’ first match will be against Croatia at the 35,000 –capacity Kaliningrad Stadium on Saturday, 16th June 2018 at 9pm (Kaliningrad time). Zlatko Dalic is coach of Croatia and top stars include Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic.
Croatia had to qualify through a play –off, in which they dismissed Greece.
In that country’s first –ever outing at the FIFA World Cup, Croatia surprised all by taking the bronze medals, powered by Davor Suker. But the country has failed to make it out of the group phase in her three appearances in the finals since then.
For their second match, Nigeria will fly to Volgograd, where they take on Iceland at the 45,000 –capacity Volgograd Arena on Friday, 22nd June 2018. Time is 6pm.
Iceland is making a first appearance at the FIFA World Cup, and is the smallest country ever to qualify for the finals. The country has a population of 335,000. Iceland shocked the whole of Europe last year summer, reaching the quarter –finals of the European Championship in France. Heimir Hallgrimsson is coach and star player is Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Iceland were actually 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 on Tuesday, 26th June 2018 and the venue is 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, starting 6pm at the 81,000 –capacity Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow – the venue that will also host the Final Match on 15th July 2018.
NIGERIA’S RUSSIA 2018 GROUP MATCHES
Croatia Vs Nigeria (Kaliningrad Stadium, 16th June, 9pm)
Nigeria Vs Iceland (Volgograd Arena, 22nd June, 6pm)
Nigeria Vs Argentina (Saint Petersburg Stadium, 26th June, 9pm)
ALL THE GROUPS