World Cup 2018: Argentina’s Route to the final

With many expecting this to be Messi's final World Cup venture, can La Albiceleste go deep in Russia?


Reuters/ALBERT GEA

Despite a troubled and lackluster qualifying campaign, Argentina will always arrive at a World Cup finals full of optimism and belief. 

In search of their third trophy – and notably, Messi’s first – La Albiceleste arrive in Russia with a plethora of fierce attacking options. This, however, has distracted many onlookers of the gooey, soft middle that Argentina are suffering from: underlined in their recent 6-1 friendly loss to Spain.

Reuters/MARCOS BRINDICCI

In Group D they have Nigeria, Croatia, and Iceland for company. Not quite the ‘Group of Death’ that every World Cup’s narrative seems to include, however, a competitive set of three fixtures against sides who all have a shot at escaping the group stages.

Argentina is a football-mad nation, with the hopes of the nation hanging around the neck of Jorge Sampaoli and his squad. We’ve seen the Ronaldo World Cup, the Maradona World Cup, the Zidane World Cup… can Messi add his name to this illustrious list of finals influencers?

If Argentina top Group D

Argentina will do well to claim nine points from this tight group. Matches against Iceland and Nigeria are expected to be tight affairs with Argentina's artillery tasked with breaking down the respective units.

Croatia will come at Argentina, with creativity in the midfield that could easily harm Jorge Sampaoli's side.

A group win for Argentina would see the following route:

GameDayTimeStadiumCity
Argentina vs IcelandSaturday 16th June14:00Otkrytie ArenaMoscow
Argentina vs CroatiaThursday 21st June19:00Kaliningrad StadiumKaliningrad
Nigeria vs ArgentinaTuesday 26th June19:00Krestovsky Stadium, St PetersburgSt Petersburg
Round of 16Sunday 1st July19:00Nizhny Novgorod StadiumNizhny Novgorod
Quarter-finalsSaturday 7th July19:00Fisht Olympic StadiumSochi
Semi-finalsWednesday 11th July19:00Luzhniki StadiumMoscow
FinalSunday 15th July16:00Luzhniki StadiumMoscow

Let's assume that the favourites progress from each group, and subsequent match. Argentina's road to the final would look a little something like this:

Round of 16Quarter-finalsSemi-finalsFinals
DenmarkSpainGermanyBrazil

If Argentina finish second in Group D

We've seen how competitive Group D is, so, if everything doesn't go to plan for La Albiceleste, this would be the route taken if they finish second:

GameDayTimeStadiumCity
Argentina vs IcelandSaturday 16th June14:00Otkrytie ArenaMoscow
Argentina vs CroatiaThursday 21st June19:00Kaliningrad StadiumKaliningrad
Nigeria vs ArgentinaTuesday 26th June19:00Krestovsky Stadium, St PetersburgSt Petersburg
Round of 16Saturday 30th June15:00Kazan ArenaKazan
Quarter-finalsFriday 6th July15:00Nizhny Novgorod StadiumNizhny Novgorod
Semi-finalsTuesday 10th July19:00Krestovsky Stadium, St PetersburgSt Petersburg
FinalSunday 15th July16:00Luzhniki StadiumMoscow

A much trickier assignment awaits Argentina if they fail to top their group. France and Brazil are the two most attacking sides at this year's World Cup, with Argentina's wobbly foundations unlikely to cope with the artillery fired their way.

Round of 16Quarter-finalsSemi-finalsFinals
FrancePortugalBrazilGermany

Both of these routes show hurdles that Argentina - on current form - are unlikely to clear with any ease. Goals win matches, however, and with Paulo Dybala, Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero and Gonzalo Higuaín leading their line, write the South Americans off at your peril.

Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss Group D in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.

  1. Poll: What stage do you think Argentina will reach in Russia this summer?

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Lewis Watson

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London-based football writer and former boxing editor, with a specialised eye for sports betting. Featured on Betfair, BetVictor + others.

A Munich pilgrim to witness Chelsea winning their maiden European Cup.

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