The clash between Croatia ?? and Nigeria ?? in the World Cup, ended 2-nil in favor of the former. The Croats put up a disciplined display and punish The Super Eagles with set pieces as feared before the game.
The much awaited clash didn’t entertain as expected despite the effect of Argentina ?? ‘s shocking result against Iceland ?? , earlier in the day.
With the top spot of the group up for grabs, all would have expected both teams to come out blazing, but that unfortunately wasnt the case as cautious play was what was on display.
The first half of the game saw The Croats control most part of the game with numerous close ranged passes, long shots and possession football, whilst The Super Eagles stuck to operating from the right wing.
Both teams failed to have a shot on target despite The Croats going ahead courtesy of a wicked deflection off Etebo from Manduzic’s header via a corner kick.
Needless to say the ball was heading out prior to the deflection off Etebo’s standing shin, whilst attempting to clear the header inside the box.
The only attempt of note for The Super Eagles of Nigeria, came from a cleared corner as well when Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi, put his laces through a volley which was goal bound but for the intervention of Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren who threw himself at the ball and blocked the ball.
The second half saw young Nigerian side finally get into the game with pressure and a couple of half chances. Most notable was former Watford Striker Odion Ighalo’s header which gave Subašić no problems in saving.
In the stands, the African giant’s fans kept cheering their team to an equalizer, whilst their Croatian counterparts held their faith of seeing the result through.
At exactly an hour into the game, Zlatko Dalic made his first substitution of the game and competition by replacing Kamaric with Borozvic with clear intentions of holding safe what he had in terms of scoreline.
The Super Eagles threw in Ahmed Musa to replace Iwobi, Nwankwo to replace Mikel Obi and Leicester city’s Iheanacho to replace Ighalo.
Nigeria finally came undone when Troost-Ekong was adjudjed to have impeded Manduzic’s attempt to react to a corner.
Replays showed the young defender’s arms squarely around the striker thereby rooting him to the ground in full glare of the referee, who responded by pointing to the spot, which Real Madrid’s Luka Modric made no mistake from to put the Croatians top of the Group D with 3 points.
— 🇳🇬 Super Eagles (@NGSuperEagles) June 18, 2018
It is with mentioning though that despite the call being accurate, Manduzic wasn’t the intended target of the ball’s trajectory hence a couple of pundits deeming it harsh.
Legend Jay Jay Okocha blamed Coach Gernot Rohr for playing his players out of position. Citing his nephew Alex Iwobi case as most peculiar, The football Legend lamented the missed opportunity by Nigeria.
“We didn’t have a creative player today,” the former Nigeria No.10 added.
Mikel has been a good servant to the national team. His best position is playing in front of the defence. We saw what he did playing for Chelsea where he had a glorious career.
The most creative player in that team is Alex Iwobi but he was played on the flanks. He (Iwobi) can play on the flanks at Arsenal because they had better players in that role like Mesut Ozil.”
… Jay Jay Okocha on supersport
Gernot Rohr expressed his disappointment with the outcome of the game. He however conceded that the better team won on the day and remained hopeful over the coming fixtures for Nigeria against Iceland and Argentina respectively.
“We’re really disappointed we lost this game,” Rohr said in his post-match press conference.
Croatia were the better team. We could have come back into it in the second half after we started very well before the penalty against us… “
… Gernot Rohr Post match conference
Agreeing with his counterpart, Croatian Coach Zlatko Dalic expressed his satisfaction with the result and his side’s quality over The Super Eagles.
A win is a win,” he said. “Corners and penalties are part of football. It doesn’t matter how you score, it matters that you score.
We earned our luck. We want to be more efficient in attack but we are not going to split hairs about the way we scored.
It was a difficult match against an excellent opponent. We were disciplined and we deservedly won.”
… Zlatko Dalic Post match conference
The Super Eagles take on Iceland next whilst The Group leaders Croatia take on Messing and Argentina in the next round of Group D fixtures later this week.
Man of the match was Oghenekero Etebo for Nigeria who scored the own goal. His overall contribution was superb, with 9 take ons and a success rate of 100℅.