Preview: Croatia v Nigeria

Draw will ‘spice up’ Asian World Cup qualifiers says Indonesia coach

The Super Eagles will be looking to get their World Cup campaign off the ground with an upset, while Croatia will throw everything in their way in what could prove to be a decisive Group D clash.

FIFA World Cup

16 June 2018

Group stage

Kick-off: 21h00 CAT (GMT+2)

Venue: Kaliningrad Stadium

Referee: S. Meira Ricci
Assistant referee: E. De Carvalho
Assistant referee: M. van Gasse
Fourth official: A. Mateu Lahoz

Players to watch:

Victor Moses was instrumental in Chelsea’s 2016/17 Premier League title win. Although this season wasn’t as kind to him, he will certainly be one to watch. At his best, the versatile wing-back can be world class.

Speaking of world-class, Nigeria’s midfield has a mammoth task on their hands as they attempt to nullify Luka Modric. Like Moses, he wasn’t at his best in 2017/18, but he was nevertheless instrumental in Real Madrid’s Champions League’s success. There are few players in the world who can match his passing ability.

Team form and manager quotes:

Nigeria head into this game in poor form having drawn to DR Congo and lost to England and the Czech Republic in their warm-up games. However, coach Gernot Rohr is unperturbed.

“We are okay with the garb of the underdog. But the defeats have done something for us. We have our heads firmly on our shoulders and we are focused,” he said, according to the Daily Post.

Croatia beat Senegal 2-1 in their last game, but coach Zlatko Dalic has been quoted by the same publication as claiming that they will need a full-strength side to see off Nigeria.

“I will give the opportunity to the best, neither young nor old, the best. Senegal has shown us all we have to fix some things. There is no reason to fear,” he said.

Team news:

Modric is expected to play higher up the pitch than he usually does for Real Madrid, providing support for either Mario Mandzukic or Andrej Kramaric. The former is expected to start up front ahead of the versatile 26-year-old.

Whichever attacking options Croatia decide to utilise, 19-year-old goalkeeper Francis Uzoho has a massive task on his hands. The youngster has become Nigeria’s best option in between the sticks following Vincent Enyeama’s retirement and Carl Ikeme’s leukaemia diagnosis.