June 16th, 2018 Kaliningrad Stadium
Croatia: Vatreni (The Blazers)
Nigeria: Super Eagles
The road to the World Cup:
Croatia started their qualification strongly, leading the group and remaining undefeated for the first round of matches. However, consecutive defeats against Iceland and Turkey, as well as a draw against lowly-ranked Finland threatened their progression and caused a public outcry against manager Ante Cacic for his poor team selection and decreased player morale. He was hastily replaced by Zlatko Dalic, who led the team to a crucial 2–0 win against Ukraine in Kiev, securing a spot in the playoff round against Greece. Croatia finalized their qualification with a convincing 4–1 aggregate win over Greece, with all goals coming in the home leg in Zagreb. Since finishing third in their first ever World Cup in 1998, Croatia has failed to ever make it past the group stage. They have made it to the quarterfinals of the European Championships twice but have never won an international tournament.
Nigeria on 24 June 2016, The Confederation of African Football released the draw for the 3rd round of the World Cup qualifiers which saw Nigeria grouped in what was described as a "group of death"; alongside Zambia, Algeria and, Cameroon. Nigeria started her group stage matches with a 2–1 win over Zambia in Ndola and defeated Algeria 3–1 in their second match. They went on to beat Cameroon 5–1 home and away in a back to back contest. The Super Eagles of Nigeria became the first African team to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup after beating Zambia 1–0 in Uyo after Alex Iwobi scores the vital winner.
- Current- 20
- Highest- 3
- Lowest – 125
- Current- 48
- Highest -5
- Lowest – 82
Coaches & Captains
Croatia: Zlatko Dalic & Luca Modric
Nigeria: Jernot Rohr & John Obi Mikel
Performance and key's players:
Croatia will be competing in their 5th World Cup, with their best showing coming at France 98 where they finished 3rd. Croatia qualified for and competed in three consecutive World Cup finals between 1998 and 2006, but failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after finishing 3rd in Group 6 of their Qualification Group behind England, and Ukraine. Croatia’s midfield is one of the best in international football containing Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic along with Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic and Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic and Marcelo Brozovic. In defence, Liverpool’s dodgy centre-back Dejan Lovren is a regular starter for the Croatian national team often alongside Atletico Madrid’s Sime Vrsalijko. Juventus’ Mario Mandzukic is almost certain to lead the line for Croatia in Russia as he did at Euro 2016. Croatia is very experienced and well build a team, the middle field is their strength where Modric and Rakitic will show why they are two of the best players in that position. The speed of Perisic and the strength of Mandzukic will produce a lot of chances in attack and we expect Croatia to make another amazing perform.
The Super Eagles played Argentina in a friendly match in November which they won 4-2, with Iwobi scoring twice. They will, of course, be hoping for a similar result when the two sides meet again in St Petersburg on the 26th of June. Nigeria has never made it past the last 16 at the World Cup and was knocked out four years ago in Brazil by France. This will be Nigeria’s 6th World Cup and they will be desperate to please the millions of African fans supporting them from around the world. Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho & Ahmed Musa will lead the team. Iwobi may come under serious criticism when he is playing for Arsenal, but for Nigeria, he seems to be a totally different player. The 21- year old has scored some big goals for his country and will be desperate to silence his critics this summer. Iheanacho seemed to score every time he played for Manchester City but was sold to Leicester in the summer for around £25 million. Iheanacho will also have a point to prove after not playing much for Leicester this season. Another former Leicester player, Ahmed Musa, plays an important role in Nigeria. The 25-year-old has scored 13 goals for his country and despite struggling at Leicester and moving to CSKA Moscow, he will almost certainly be on the plane to Russia in June. (Or simply waiting for his teammates arriving by plane…). Nigeria is the outsider of the group, but they definitely have some hidden chances to surprise Argentina (again) and Iceland.
Croatia to win (4 points)
Both teams to score (3 points)
Over 2.5 goals in the game (2 points)
Mario Mandzukic to score (1 point)
ENJOY THE GAME!!!