Modric-inspired Croatia open with a win

No shots on target, one goal. The statistics at half-time during Croatia’s meeting with Nigeria reflected an opening 45 minutes shaded by the Balkan side � but largely dominated by defenders. Ivan Perisic went closest to hitting the target with an effort from 20m after a quarter of an hour, but in the end it was Nigeria’s Oghenekaro Etebo who brought joy to the huge Croatian contingent in Kaliningrad, beating his own goalkeeper following a corner.

Cautious in the first half, Nigeria came out with more purpose after the break, only for Dejan Lovren and Domagoj Vida to keep Odion Ighalo well and truly quiet. In fact, just as the Super Eagles began turning up the pressure on Danijel Subasic’s goal, the *Vatreni* (The Fiery Ones) responded by doubling their lead, Luka Modric converting from the spot after William Ekong held Mario Mandzukic in the box. It was no less than Modric deserved after a superb display that earned him the Budweiser Man of the Match award.

Budweiser Man of the Match

Croatia’s captain and playmaker Luka Modric was a decisive presence, taking the corner that led to the opening goal before burying the penalty that gave the Vatreni breathing space. On top of those two crucial contributions, he shone throughout the game with his vision and slick passing.

The stat

3 – Croatia ended a run of three games without a victory in their opening fixture at a World Cup. The Vatreni’s last win in their first game had been a 3-1 defeat of Jamaica in 1998.

What’s next

Argentina v Croatia – Group D, 21 June, Nizhny Novgorod

Nigeria v Iceland – Group D, 22 June, Moscow, Volgograd

Source: Confederation Africaine de Football

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