World Cup 2018: Croatia on top after defeating Nigeria 2-0 in Group D
After losing the opening match in each of their last three World Cups, Croatia finally broke the jinx defeating Nigeria 2-0 in the second match of the Group D fixtures at the Kaliningrad Stadium on Sunday. Captain Luka Modric scored his maiden World Cup goal while Nigeria’s Etebo netted an own goal.
The Real Madrid playmaker had a terrific game, not only scoring but also having a hand in the opening goal. Modric’s corner was headed down by Ante Rebic and had Mario Mandzukic pounce onto the ball, which took a deflection of Etebo before going inside the net.
The match however had started in a different fashion with Nigeria holding possession and Croatia chasing blind shadows. The Africans were composed and threaded some neat passes between themselves allowing the opposition only sniffs in between and it was among one of those sniffs that the Croats nearly scored.
It came in the 14th minute and was after Mandzukic found Ivan Perisic on the left with a through ball, which the Inter Milan forward shot just above the bar. Both sides attacked with much flair as the game progressed but to their dismay managed zero shots on target, making it the first instance this World Cup where both sides failed to find the target even once in the opening 45 minutes.
The same pattern followed in the second-half as the ‘Super Eagles’ resorted to keeping the ball while Croaita operated in moments. Rebic once again came close, sending the ball sky-high from six yards out albeit in an off-side position and then came the first shot on target. Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo headed straight at the goalkeeper in the 60th minute from an Idowu Brown cross.
It came after a total of 19 shots but had an instant impact, injecting some life into the match. Soon Croatia doubled their lead with just their first shot on the target. Troost-Ekong was judged to have pulled Mandzukic down and the referee made no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Modric stood up and scored, sending Nigeria goalkeeper Francis Uzohu the wrong way to notch up a comfortable win.
The match however was locked out in the middle of the park and rarely got out of it and as a result both teams after a combined 26 shots had just four on target.
Croatia’s victory also meant they now top Group D which also has Argentina and Iceland. ‘The Blazers’ next take on Argentina, while Nigeria will square-off against Iceland in the second round.