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Croatia rides Modric penalty kick, own goal to win over Nigeria
June 18, 2018, 12:16 am
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Croatia, featuring one of the more talent-laden sides in the field, with Real Madrid's Luka Modric, Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic, Juventus's Mario Mandzukic and Inter Milan's Ivan Perisic, safely defeated Nigeria 2-0 as Saturday's action wrapped up in Kaliningrad Stadium.

The match started with Croatia's usual attempt to control possession while Nigeria's young squad looking to counter at every opportunity. Much of the early threat came from the left handside as a soft cross came in looking for Mario Mandzukic, but Nigeria defended well.

After five minutes of play, it was clear Nigeria was also looking to take advantage of every dead-ball situation. As we approached 10 minutes, Croatia was awarded its first corner but the Super Eagles cleared with intent and purpose. Both teams looked to use the wide spaces to create chances but neither were succesful. A great chance for Perisic just outside the box goes above the bar, becoming the first real attempt for the European nation.

In the 19th minute, Luka Modric placed a floating ball in the box but eventually came to no avail. The more the half developed, the more comfortable Croatia felt as not enough numbers in the final third for Nigeria were causing problems.

In the 32nd minute, Croatia went on top thanks to a scrappy corner, which was deflected from Mandzukic's header, only for Oghenekaro Etebo to put it in his own goal.

By the end of the half, Nigeria felt a few chances went missing but plenty to play in this one as the Super Eagles headed into the break down by a goal but not defeated.

The second half started with Nigeria on the front foot as Victor Moses cut inside the box looking for an equalizer but going just wide. Equally on the other side, Rakitic tried an optimistic attempt from way outside but in the end it went high above the bar. It was definitely one for the stats board.

Nigeria kept pushing as Odion Ighalo headed a ball in the 59th minute, but it was met by the hands of the keeper. After the hourmark, it seemed as the Super Eagles were running out of creative choices while Croatia kept pushing for a second.

Despite his constant movement, the usual engine Victor Moses was finding little room to do much as Croatia's tight defensive unite monitored his runs throughout. Perisic kept being a constant threat on the left hand side and after winning a corner, Croatia made it 2-0 thanks a penalty. Mandzukic once again in the thick of the action as he was hugged and brought down in the box. The official didn't need VAR for this one and Luka Modric converted to extend the lead.

As we reached the final minutes of the game, it was evident to see how comfortable Croatia had been throughout the game. Even in the last minutes when Nigeria had a glorious chance to bring one back, Zlatko Dalic's were up to the task. It was nearly three but a one-on-one failed to go past Nigeria's stopper. It was a well earned performance and one that sealed the team's leading spot in Group D.

Here are the rosters for both teams:

CROATIA

Goalkeepers: Lovre Kalinic (Dinamo Zagreb), Dominik Livakovic (Gent), Danijel Subasic (Monaco)

Defenders: Duje Caleta-Car (Red Bull Salzburg); Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Tin Jedvaj (Bayer Leverkusen), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool), Josip Pivaric (Dynamo Kiev), Ivan Strinic (AC Milan), Domagoj Vida (Besiktas), Sime Vrsajlko (Atletico Madrid)

Midfielders: Milan Badelj (Fiorentina), Filip Bradaric (Rijeka), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter), Mateo Kovacic (Real Madrid), Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona)

Forwards: Nikola Kalinic (Milan), Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim), Mario Mandzukic (Juventus), Ivan Perisic (Inter Milan), Marko Pjaca (Juventus), Ante Rebic (Eintracht Frankfurt)

Manager: Zlatko Dalic

NIGERIA

Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (Deportivo La Coruna), Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Enyimba), Daniel Akpeyi (Chippa United)

Defenders: William Troost-Ekong (Bursasport), Abdullahi Shehu (Bursaspor), Tyronne Ebuehi (Ado Den Haag), Elderson Echiejile (Cercle Brugge KSV), Bryan Idowu (Amkar Perm), Chidozie Awaziem (Nantes FC), Leon Balogun (Brighton), Kenneth Omeruo (Kasimpasa)

Midfielders: Mikel John Obi (Tianjin Teda), Ogenyi Onazi (Trabzonspor), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City), Oghenekaro Etebo (Las Palmas), John Ogu (Hapoel Be'er Sheva), Joel Obi (Torino, Italy)

Forwards: Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City), Victor Moses (Chelsea), Odion Ighalo (Changchun Yatai), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Simeon Nwankwo (Crotone)

Manager: Gernot Rohr

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