The Tele guide to the World Cup: Group D’s local links

Argentine World Cup star Claudio Caniggia bewitched the Dundee support in his time at Dens Park.
Argentine World Cup star Claudio Caniggia bewitched the Dundee support in his time at Dens Park.

Yet again Scotland won’t be there but all eyes are now firmly fixed on the World Cup in Russia.

The action is already well under way and today The Tele’s look at the tournament continues with our lowdown on the teams that make up Group C in the opening stages.

Trying not to leave you feeling too left out by the tartan Army’s absence, we’ll also provide a local link, tenuous or otherwise, to each participating nation.

Group D

Argentina

Lionel Messi will lead Argentina in Russia

The beaten finalists in Brazil four years ago, they will be right up there among the favourites, though a 6-1 friendly defeat against Spain earlier this year is hardly confidence inspiring.

Any team led by the magical talent of Messi, however, has to be rated potential winners. And if he is to challenge for the title of the greatest player of all time, the Barcelona attacker probably needs to win a World Cup.

He turns 31 during the finals, so this might be his last chance to do that.

Star player: Lionel Messi.

Local link: Dundee caused a sensation back in 2000 when they signed Argentina World Cup star Claudio Caniggia.

At the time they already had Fabian Caballero, Juan Sara and Beto Carranza on their books. Another Argentine, Beto Nevada, had brief spells at Dundee and United.

United greats Dave Narey and Paul Hegarty also battled it out with the great Diego Maradona in a Scotland v Argentina friendly at Hampden back in 1979. Maradona won.

Dundee United captain Paul Hegarty chases Diego Maradona in a friendly at Hampden where the South american maestro came out on top in a 3-1 victory in 1979.

Croatia

They finished third when still a new nation back in 1998 in France but have flattered to deceive at times since.

What they always have is a crop of players talented enough to cause shocks if they hit a run of form and, if they can get out of the group, the Croatians could progress further.
Star player: Luka Modric.

Local link: Dragutin Ristic’s name might seem longer than the time he lasted in spells at Dundee and Dundee United but he did make first-team appearances and was born in what is now Croatia.

Although born in Bosnia, one-time non-scoring Dundee United striker Darko Bodul considers himself Croatian and did represent them at U/21 level, as did another ex-Tangerine Mihael Kovacevic.

Iceland

The shock troops of Euro 2016 in France, the Icelandic team could melt a few more hearts in Russia.

They did, of course, beat England in those Euros and apart from making them popular in these parts, it shows they are a unit that’s decent, if not always pleasing on the eye.

Star player: Gylfi Sigurdsson.

Local link: The Dundee legend that is Barry Smith had a spell in Icelandic football, as did United’s 1994 Scottish Cup winner David Hannah.

Heading the other way was one-time wonder boy of European football, Siggi Jonsson, who had an injury-hit spell at Tannadice late in his career.

Last, but not least, Tele columnist Lee Wilkie’s one Scotland goal came against Iceland.

Nigeria

The Super Eagles are now familiar faces at World Cup finals and know their way around tournaments like this.

This will be their sixth finals appearance since 1994 and they’ll be looking to make it through the group for a fourth time.

If they do that and progress one round further, it will represent their best-ever showing.

Star player: Alex Iwobi.

Local link: Seeing as in Nigeria “Dundee United” is slang for idiot (it relates to a disastrous early 70s visit there), at least half our city might not be shouting for the Super Eagles.

Their U/15 side were popular visitors to Dens Park during the 1989 U/15s World Cup.

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