Croatia vs Nigeria – Preview, Predictions and Betting Tips
This match is over: Final score is: 2-0
Next Croatia match: Argentina vs Croatia
Next Nigeria match: Nigeria vs Iceland
Croatia will be hoping they can live up to pre-World Cup expectations for the first time this century when they take on Nigeria at Kaliningrad Stadium on Saturday evening.
The Vatreni finished third at the 1998 World Cup in France but have not progressed past the group stage in their three finals appearances since – despite being hotly tipped beforehand. Now another highly-fancied squad, which comfortably came through a play-off against Greece to qualify, have another opportunity for their ‘golden generation’ to impress.
The first obstacle that Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and their teammates must hurdle is the Super Eagles. Having missed just one finals since 1994, the Nigerians are yet to advance past the round of 16 stage.
But there’s hope that having finishing top of their qualifying group, coach Gernot Rohr can guide this young, energetic squad through what is arguably the tournaments toughest group. While defensively the Nigerians can look suspect, the attack is filled with dynamism and the likes of Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi will try to use their frightening pace on the break.
However, that youthfulness may be the Super Eagles’ downfall. Failure to qualify for the last two Africa Cup of Nations finals – despite lifting the trophy in 2013 – means much of this squad are yet to feature in a major international competition.
The first set of fixtures in a World Cup finals are often tentative affairs and this may particularly be the case here if Argentina beat Iceland as expected in the Group D opener a few hours before this match gets underway.
Nigeria haven’t scored in their last three World Cup opening matches (D1 L2) and have won only one of their last 12 games at the finals. As such, it may be wise to back Croatia to win this opener at 4/5 with William Hill.
Should Nigeria’s attackers get the space on the break that they crave, they may end up getting on the scoresheet. A Croatia win with both teams netting is at 15/4 with Bet365.
- Croatia’s squad includes four Champions League winners – Mario Mandzukic (Bayern Munich), Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona), Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic (both Real Madrid)
- Nigeria have been drawn in the same group as Argentina in five of their last six World Cup appearances
- The Super Eagles were unbeaten throughout their qualification campaign –
- Nigeria to keep a clean sheet against Croatia – 29/10
- Nigeria boss Gernot Rohr has coached four African sides in the last eight years (Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Niger and Gabon)
- Mario Mandzukic was Croatia’s top scorer during qualifying with five goals
- Mario Mandzukic to score first against Nigeria – 9/2
Croatia: Dominik Livaković, Šime Vrsaljko, Ivan Strinić, Ivan Perišić, Vedran Ćorluka, Dejan Lovren, Ivan Rakitić, Mateo Kovačić, Andrej Kramarić, Luka Modrić (captain), Marcelo Brozović, Lovre Kalinić, Tin Jedvaj, Filip Bradarić, Duje Ćaleta-Car, Nikola Kalinić, Mario Mandžukić, Ante Rebić, Milan Badelj, Marko Pjaca, Domagoj Vida, Josip Pivarić, Danijel Subašić.
Nigeria: Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Brian Idowu, Elderson Echiéjilé, Wilfred Ndidi, William Troost-Ekong, Leon Balogun, Ahmed Musa, Oghenekaro Etebo, Odion Ighalo, John Obi Mikel (captain), Victor Moses, Shehu Abdullahi, Simeon Nwankwo, Kelechi Iheanacho, Joel Obi, Daniel Akpeyi, Ogenyi Onazi, Alex Iwobi, John Ogu, Chidozie Awaziem, Tyronne Ebuehi, Kenneth Omeruo, Francis Uzoho.