Super Eagles crash to Croatia in World Cup first group match

Christian Chukwu

Christian Chukwu

"This is not a burden, let's see what happens after the World Cup", Croatia captain Modric said when asked before Saturday's opener against Nigeria in Kaliningrad if the prospect of a final major tournament for several players was increasing the pressure on Croatia.

The Croatians seemed to struggle with that knowledge at first and flattered to deceive for much of the contest, but Nigeria huffed and puffed without any end product.

After the Croatia game on Saturday, matches against Iceland (June 22) and Argentina (June 26) await the Nigeria team.

Luka Modric (Croatia): Played within himself at times, but helped dictate the play to ensure Croatia remained largely in control.

"We're a very young team and we have to play without pressure", said Mikel, the former Chelsea midfielder who now plays in China.

The Eagles are now rock bottom in the group D standings as Croatia top the log with three points.

There is speculation that the tournament in Russian Federation could be the last chance of collective success for a talented crop of Croats that includes captain Luka Modric, Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic and Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic, all of whom are in their 30s.

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Croatia finished third in its inaugural World Cup - in France in 1998 - but has been eliminated at the group stage in 2002, 2006 and four years ago in Brazil. "They have huge amounts of quality, but this win will really boost our confidence and we are going to up our game".

Oghenekaro Etebo, up until that point one of Nigeria's best performers, was wrong-footed and bundled into his own net.

Nigeria have lost each of their last seven World Cup matches when they have conceded the first goal.

Nigeria came close to drawing level but Iwobi's strike was blocked by the Croats defenders as they led by a lone goal at half time.

Croatia again had their opponents to thank for their second goal, after William Troost-Ekong held Mario Mandzukic back in the penalty area by wrapping both arms around him from behind in a tight embrace that would have done credit to an amorous Cossack.

Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr felt his team also deserved a penalty.

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