By 90Min
June 16, 2018

A strong Croatia side kicked off their World Cup campaign with a 2-0 victory over Nigeria in Group D.

A second-half penalty from Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modrić sealed the victory, building on an own goal from new Stoke City signing Oghenekaro Etebo in a game that had little to offer but the two goals that were scored.

The game got off to a frantic start, however there was no rhythm to the game as both sides struggled to settle into the match - making for a rather tedious spectacle for long periods.

Croatia had the first chance of the game on 14 minutes, when Mario Mandžukić laid the ball of for Ivan Perišić, who fired over the bar from just outside the edge of the box. Former Leicester striker Andrej Kramarić fired wide minutes later, with neither team able to create a clear chance.


Shortly after the half-hour mark, Croatia took the lead with a piece of fortune, as Mandžukić's header was deflected inside of the post by Etebo - who recently signed for Stoke City - to put the Croatians 1-0 to the good.

Everybody watching would have been relieved to hear the half time whistle, bringing to a close a disappointing half that saw no shots on target being registered by either side.

The start of the second half was very much the same, with Victor Moses' dragged shot after 49 minutes summarising the poor, lethargic efforts from the African side.

For a game that had such promise ahead of kick off, it failed to deliver - but Croatia showed their moments of promise in the final third.

After Ivan Rakitić played a fantastic ball out to Perišić on the left, the latter's cross sat up on a plate for Ante Rebić. The 24-year-old tried a first-time cushioned volley, only to see his effort fly over the crossbar.


Striker Odion Ighalo came closest for Nigeria, but he could not generate enough power on his header to trouble Danijel Subašić in the Croatia goal.

With 20 minutes left to play, a rush of blood to the head of William Ekong saw the Nigerian defender wraps his arm around Mandžukić's neck in mid-air, leaving the referee with no choice but to immediately point to the spot.

Up stepped Modrić, who punched the ball into the bottom-left corner with the side of his boot to extend the Croatians' lead in Kaliningrad, from where they never looked back, cruising to a comfortable victory

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