epa06814251 Luka Modric (R) of Croatia and John Obi Mikel of Nigeria in action during the FIFA World Cup 2018 group D preliminary round soccer match between Croatia and Nigeria in Kaliningrad, Russia, 16 June 2018.
Saturday Jun 16, 2018. 23:08
Nigeria’s 2018 World Cup got off to a terrible start after they were beaten 2-0 by Croatia in a Group D clash at the Kaliningrad Stadium on Saturday evening.
An own goal from Oghenekaro Etebo and a Luka Modric penalty took ‘The Blazers’ to three points and top spot in the group, while Africa is still waiting for it’s first goal – let alone a positive result – following 0-1 defeats for Egypt and Morocco on Friday.
Nigeria enjoyed plenty of early possession, but the first scoring chance went the way of Croatia, who put together a swift attacking move in the 14th minute which ended with Ivan Perisic firing a shot from the edge of the box just over the crossbar.
The European side claimed the lead just after the half hour mark. A corner kick was flicked on at the near post, Mario Mandzukic tried to score with a diving header and the ball was unwittingly turned into his own net by Oghenekaro Etebo.
It should have been 2-0 to Croatia in the 39th minute, with Ivan Rakitic whipping a fine cross into the box to find Andrej Kramaric, but the attacker put his glancing header over the target.
Nigeria started the second half strongly and gradually began to build some pressure in attack. However, they lacked the penetration to really trouble Croatia’s defence and goalkeeper Danijel Subasic.
‘The Blazers’ claimed their second goal in the 72nd minute, with Luka Modric scoring from a penalty. The spot kick had been awarded after defender William Troost-Ekong was guilty of wrestling Mandzukic to the floor at a corner kick.
Croatia were able to cruise through the rest of the game and pick up three valuable points which puts them top of the standings, ahead of their next match against Argentina on June 21. Nigeria’s next game will see them take on Iceland the following day.
Croatia (1) 2 (Etebo 32’ og, Modric 72’ pen)
Croatia: Subasic, Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic, Rakitic, Modric, Kramaric (Brozovic 60’), Rebic (Kovacic 78’), Perisic, Mandzukic (Pjaca 86’)
Nigeria: Uzoho, Abdullahi, Balogun, Troost-Ekong, Idowu, Etebo, Mikel (Nwankwo 88’), Ndidi, Moses, Ighalo (Iheanacho 73’), Iwobi (Musa 62’)