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Croatia sweeps aside Nigeria in 2-0 win despite lacking sharpness

The win has taken Croatia to top of the table in Group D.

BS Web Team 

modric scores
modric scores

Full-time analysis:
The first half of the match in Kaliningrad was a red herring. After Nigeria's spirited show in the first half despite going a goal down, people expected them to make things difficult for Croatia. But by the 70th minute, there was no doubt who the winner would do. This, despite the fact that the Croatians weren't even at their best.

Croatia scored two goals to win the match. Both involving veteran Mario Mandzukic but it was more of Nigerian players' fault than Mandzukic's brilliance.

Both teams lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation and both teams decided to drop some big names to the bench. Croatia left Mateo Kovacic and veteran defender Vedran Corluka on the bench while Odion Ighalo was preferred to lead Nigeria's line over the Leicester duo of Kelechi Iheanacho and Ahmed Musa.

The first real action came in the 13th minute when Croatia had a sniff of goal after Mario Mandzukic laid off a ball for Ivan Perisic just outside the box. Perisic let one fly but it narrowly flew over the bar. Nigeria though continued to press forward and made things difficult for Croatia.

It was only after a haphazard goal in the 27th minute that Croatia began to settle. Croatia got a corner and Mandzukic headed the ball, which, in all likeliness, was missing the target. But Oghenekaro Etbo, signed by Stoke City this week, unwilttingly directed the ball into his own net. The goal seemed to calm down the nerves of the Croatians who got into their groove after that and they carved out more than a couple of half-chances while Nigeria too had the sight of the Croatian goalpost in-between.

It was all Croatia by the time the half-time. They were relentlessly pressuring the Nigerians who were, to be fair, quite solid in the beginning.

Contrary to the first half, the second was quite uneventful, as Croatia controlled proceedings without being brilliant. Nigerians kept running around but nothing positive came out of it and in the 69th minute, William Troost-Ekong unnecessarily conceded a penalty.

Croatia got a corner and while Mandzukic tried to rise to head it, Troost-Ekong wrapped his arms around the striker and felled in the box. The referee had no choice but to point to the spot. Real Madrid's Luka Modric stood over the dead ball and swung a fierce and accurate shot to the left hand corner while Francis Uzoho jumped the wrong way.

Croatia kept building the pressure but the game fizzled out by the time the full-time came around. Although a scruffy win, it has taken Croatia to the top of Group D. The golden generation of the perennial dark-horses of the tournament is playing probably their last edition of the FIFA World Cup and this win would give them a shot at their win, if not their arm.

As for Nigeria, they will need much more than just the chickens which their fans wanted to bring inside the stadium. As of now, their fate seems sealed, but if they can do more of what they did in the first half today, they still might have a wild chance.


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Croatia go top of Group D after sailing beyond Nigeria in Kaliningrad

89 Min: There is nothing left in the match. Croatia have sucked whatever energy Nigeria had after the start of the second half.

85 min: Mandzukic is replaced by Pjaca

Croatia are cruising towards the top of the Group D. It seems like Nigeria have already given up on the match.

The Croatia captain doubles their lead

Min 71:
Modric succesfully converts the penalty.

Min 69: Looks like its a penalty to Croatia. Modric on it.

Min 61: Ahmed Musa comes on to add pace to the attack. He replaces Alex

One more: Neither side attempted a single shot on target in the first half of this match. The last game to not have a shot on target before half-time at the World Cup also involved Croatia (vs Mexico in June 2014)

Time for some Trivia: Nigeria have lost each of their last six World Cup matches when they have conceded the first goal. Not that's a worry

Min 58: Substitution: Kramaric is withdrawn, with Marcelo Brozovic

There has been more attacking intent by Nigeria since after the half time but they have yet to make it count.

48 min: Nigeria win three consecutive early corners, but each one is batted away

The second half kicks off.

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Half-time analysis:

It's all Croatia at the half-time in Kaliningrad. They have been relentlessly pressuring the Nigerians who were, to be fair, quite solid in the beginning. But an own goal by Oghenekaro Etebo has seemingly calmed down the nerves of the Croatians who have been dominating the match ever since.

Both teams lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation and both teams decided to drop some big names to the bench. Croatia left Mateo Kovacic and veteran defender Vedran Corluka on the bench while Odion Ighalo was preferred to lead Nigeria's line over the Leicester duo of Kelechi Iheanacho and Ahmed Musa.

The first real action came in the 13th minute when Croatia had a sniff of goal after Mario Mandzukic laid off a ball for Ivan Perisic just outside the box. Perisic let one fly but it narrowly flew over the bar. Nigeria though continued to press forward and made things difficult for Croatia.

It was only after a haphazard goal in the 27th minute that Croatia began to settle. Croatia got a corner and Mandzukic headed the ball, which, in all likeliness, was missing the target. But Etbo, signed by Stoke City this week, unwillingly directed the ball into his own net.

Croatia got into their groove after that and they carved out more than a couple of half-chances while Nigeria too had the sight of the Croatian goalpost in-between.

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44 min: Moses wins a foul down the right flank, asks for a punishment but for no avail

Min 39: Kramaric finds the top of the net. Misses the pole by an inch. Outstanding pass by Rakitic.

Etebo helped Mario Mandzukic’s header find the net

And it's goal for Nigeria: Ohh It's an own goal

25 Mins: Halfway through the first half and neither team have made too many inroads. Croatia still dominate the possession.

TIme for Trivia: This is Nigeria's sixth appearance at the World Cup finals; no African nation has appeared in more since the Super Eagles' first tournament in 1994

The Croatians have more of the ball, but are finding it difficult to break the Super Eagles down

15 Min: Hand ball by Nigeria's Odion Ighalo

9 Min: Croatia play a short corner, even after Mandzukic being among the targets in the box

4 Mins: Croatia have now started to take control of the game

1 Min: Nigeria get the game underway

The kick-off

Croatian fans passionately sang the song "Fire heart" which they sing ahead of every match

Want to get some backgrounder about the teams?

Nigeria: Can Super Eagles fly high to grab gold in Russia?

Croatia: Luka Modric leads team chances in 'group of death'

Croatia has never played against Nigeria before tonight’s meeting in Kaliningrad. Croatia are higher in the Fifa rankings. They’re 20th, Nigeria are down in 48th

Before we start we today's match commentary, this is something you should read: Russia asks Nigerian fans not to bring live chickens at stadium

Highlights of the day

Australia vs France: Griezmann became the first player to score from penalty after a VAR review: You can read all the important updates here: Pogba goal saves France's blushes against disciplined Australians, FT 2-1

If you have 'missed' Messi's missed penalty: Don't worry, we have got your back. Read all the Argentina vs Iceland highlights at this link: Messi fails to break the 'Ice'land defence, Argentina manage a 1-1 draw


The third match was full of insane energy between Denmark and Peru: You can catch all the highlights here: Denmark's Poulsen scores solitary goal in closely fought 1-0 win over Peru


The confirmed squad!

Croatia: Subasic; Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic; Rakitić, Modric; Perisic, Mandzukic, Rebic; Kramaric. Croatia will be playing with 4-2-3-1 formation

Nigeria : Uzoho; Idowu, Ekong, Balogun, Shehu; Ndidi, Etebo; Iwobi, Obi Mikel, Moses; Ighalo. The Super Eagles have stuck with 4-2-3-1 formation

Croatia vs Nigeria live updates: Line-ups confirmed

Referee of the match: Sandro Ricci (Brazil)

Match Preview: Croatia vs Nigeria

It is 20 years since Croatia surged to the final four at France '98 with a resounding quarter-final win over favourites Germany, and fans will be buoyed by a squad brimming with attacking talent.

Nigeria, long one of African football's underachievers, boast several players with English Premier League pedigree, and will hope they can secure only their second win in their last 12 World Cup matches.

The stage for Saturday's clash is Kaliningrad, a thickly forested outpost of Russia wedged between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea -- a potentially challenging location for some fans to reach.

FIFA's official site showed tickets still available 24 hours before kick-off. Saturday will also prove a crucial test for FIFA's anti-discrimination drive, with tension running high in the build-up to the tournament over a spate of recent incidents.

Racism has plagued Russian football since clubs began purchasing foreign players after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Russia's football federation was last month slapped with a 25,000-euro fine after racist chants from supporters during a friendly against France.

FIFA has instituted a three-strikes policy against any racist abuse from fans across the tournament, threatening to abandon matches if supporters ignore a stadium speaker announcement and then a pause in play.

Nigeria's Dutch-born defender Will Troost-Ekong told Britain's The Guardian newspaper last month that the players would react as one to any abuse.

Croatia, appearing at their fifth World Cup, boast a host of world-class talent, including Real Madrid's Luka Modric, Barcelona's and Mario Mandzukic of Juventus.

The Balkan nation lost 2-0 to Brazil in a friendly in the run-up to the tournament that marked Neymar's return to international football, before a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Senegal on June 9.

Nigeria lost 2-1 to England at Wembley and fell to a turgid 1-0 defeat by the Czech Republic to leave their German coach Gernot Rohr plenty of selection headaches, particularly in attack.

The Super Eagles are this World Cup's youngest squad, and several Premier League regulars, including Arsenal's Alex Iwobi, Leicester's Wilfried Ndidi and Victor Moses of Chelsea will be crucial.

Ndidi is one of three Leicester City players in the squad.

Both sides will be keen to get off to a winning start in Russia to give themselves the best chance of exiting a tough Group D that includes Iceland -- who topped Croatia's qualifying group -- and two-time winners Argentina.

23-man Nigeria squad:

Goalkeepers: Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Enyimba), Daniel Akpeyi (Chippa United/RSA), Francis Uzoho (Deportivo La Coruna/ESP)

Defenders: William Troost-Ekong, Shehu Abdullahi (Bursaspor/TUR), Leon Balogun (Brighton Hove Albion/ENG), Kenneth Omeruo (Chelsea/ENG), Bryan Idowu (Amkar Perm/RUS), Chidozie Awaziem (FC Porto/POR), Elderson Echiejile (Cercle Brugge/BEL), Tyronne Ebuehi (Benfica/POR)

Midfielders: Mikel Obi (Tianjin Teda/CHN), Ogenyi Onazi (Trabzonspor/TUR), John Ogu (Hapoel Be'er Sheva/ISR), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City/ENG),Oghenekaro Etebo (CD Feirense/POR), Joel Obi (Torino FC/ITA)

Forwards: Odion Ighalo (Changchun Yatai/CHN), Ahmed Musa, Kelechi Iheanacho(Leicester City/ENG), Alex (Arsenal/ENG), Simeon Nwankwo (FC Crotone/ITA), Victor Moses (Chelsea/ENG)

23-man Croatia squad:

Goalkeepers: Danijel Subasic (Monaco/FRA), Lovre Kalinic (Gent/BEL), Dominik Livakovic (Dinamo Zagreb)

Defenders: Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow/RUS), Domagoj Vida (Besiktas/TUR), Ivan Strinic (Sampdoria/ITA), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool/ENG), Sime Vrsaljko (Atletico Madrid/ESP), Josip Pivaric (Dinamo Kiev/UKR), Tin Jedvaj (Bayer Leverkusen/GER), Matej Mitrovic (Club Brugge/BEL), Duje Caleta-Car (Salzburg/AUT)

Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid/ESP), (Barcelona/ESP), Mateo Kovacic (Real Madrid/ESP), Milan Badelj (Fiorentina/ITA), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan/ITA), Filip Bradaric (Rijeka)

Forwards: Mario Mandzukic (Juventus/ITA), Ivan Perisic (Inter Milan/ITA), Nikola Kalinic (AC Milan/ITA), Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim/GER), Marko Pjaca (Schalke/GER), Ante Rebic (Eintracht/GER).

First Published: Sat, June 16 2018. 23:32 IST