Croatia beat Nigeria 2-0 in their first stage FIFA World Cup Group D match at the Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad on Saturday. Nigeria’s Etebo deflected Mandzukic header into his own goal in the 32nd minute and Modric converted a penalty for Croatia in the 71st minute after Ekong fouled Mandzukic.
Nigeria tried to push forward, with more attacking intent after the break, but they certainly lacked a cutting edge – only to concede a penalty and a second goal. It was the fifth penalty awarded in four World Cup matches on Saturday.
Nigeria now have a mountain to climb after this defeat to Croatia in a difficult group. They did not create enough clear-cut chances and some poor defending cost them dearly. The Super Eagles must now beat Iceland on Friday in Volgograd to have any hope of staying alive in this World Cup.
The 1-1 draw achieved by an organised and highly-disciplined Iceland against Argentina earlier in the day has made this ‘Group of Death’ a lot more difficult. Both teams were under pressure to win tonight as another draw from this game would have left this group even more open.
Croatia now moves to the top of Group D – followed by Argentina, Iceland and Nigeria repectively. Their World Cup is beginning much better than Brazil 2014, where they crashed to a 3-1 defeat to hosts Brazil – in a game that also involved an own goal opener.
Argentina have been drawn in Group D along with Nigeria, Croatia and Iceland, which had qualified for the World Cup for the first time and are the smallest nation to achieve the feat.
Argentina is playing its next Group D match against Croatia on June 21 in Nizhny Novgorod, while Iceland is set take on their group opponents Nigeria on June 22 in Volgograd.
A total of 32 national football teams are participating in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, held in 11 cities across Russia between June 14 and July 15.
The teams were divided into eight groups, with four in each, and the top two from their relevant groups will proceed to the next round, known as the playoffs or the knockout stage, to keep vying for the much-coveted FIFA World Cup Trophy.
Russia is holding its first time ever edition of the FIFA World Cup, which kicked off in Moscow with a spectacular opening show at the Luzhniki Stadium on the night of June 14. The World Cup is being held at 12 arenas across 11 cities with the final set to be played at Luzhniki on July 15. The 11 host cities are Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Samara.