Croatia 2-0 Nigeria: Oghenekaro Etebo own goal dooms Nigeria

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KALININGRAD, Russia (June 16, 2018) – After the first matchday of Group D, Croatia sit at the top thanks to a 2-0 win over Nigeria. Captain Luka Modric scored on a penalty and an Oghenekaro Etebo own goal secured a win for the Blazers.

Croatia 2-0 Nigeria: Oghenekaro Etebo own goal dooms Nigeria

Croatia contained Nigeria’s speed for most of the game. They possessed the ball through Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, swinging crosses into the box from wide. Nigeria’s best chances came on set pieces or when they were able to possess the ball and get numbers into the box, with Victor Moses drawing several fouls.

The Blazers opened the scoring in the 32nd minute after a series of corners. Modric provided the service. It was headed on by Mario Mandzukic then deflected by Andrej Kramaric and into the goal. Replay showed that it last went off Nigerian midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo. It was ruled an own goal.

Nigeria struggled offensively in the second half. Moses and John Obi Mikel didn’t get as much of the ball they’d have liked. When Moses did get on the ball in the final third, he didn’t have many options to create offense.

Things went all wrong for the Super Eagles in the 70th minute on a Croatia corner. William Troost-Ekong was called for a penalty for wrapping his arms around Mandzukic on the play. Modric stepped up and sent goalkeeper Francis Uzoho the wrong way to score.

The teams traded half chances in the final 20 minutes, but they amounted to nothing. The match ended 2-0.

Three takeaways:

Modric is the man: The Croatian captain was hands down the Man of the Match. He and Rakitic controlled the midfield and kept the Nigerian attack in check. He took the setpieces that led to most of the chances for his side, including the corner that led to the first goal. He had a nice finish on the PK goal as well.

Nigerian struggles: Nigeria struggled on both sides of the ball. The attack never really developed and they rarely were able to use their speed to create offense. Their defending on corners was also poor, as two of them led to goals. From the veterans to the youngsters, the performance wasn’t good enough.

Poor finishing by both sides: Both teams suffered from inaccuracy in this match. Of the combined 26 shots (14-12 Nigeria) just four were on target (2-2), one of those being the Modric penalty. Both teams got the ball in the final third, but had trouble penetrating into the box. Most shots were from a good distance and were well off the mark.

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