Croatia had to beat Greece in the playoffs to qualify, but did so easily with a 4-1 win in the first leg.

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Croatia World Cup Fixtures, Squad, Group Guide

Croatia vs Nigeria (16th June) Match Report

The last game of the day sees Croatia face Nigeria – Match preview here.

Croatia Starting XI: 23 Danijel Subasic, 2 Sime Vrsaljko, 3 Ivan Strinic, 4 Ivan Perisic, 6 Dejan Lovren, 7 Ivan Rakitic9 Andrej Kramaric (11 Marcelo Brozovic 60), 10 Luka Modric, 17 Mario Mandzukic  (20 Marko Pjaca), 18 Ante Rebic (8 Mateo Kovacic 78), 21 Domagoj Vida

Nigeria Starting XI: 23 Francis Uzuho, 2 Brian Idowu, 4 Wilfred Ndidi, 5 William Troost -Ekong,6 Leon Balogun, 8 Oghenekaro Etebo, 9 Odion Ighalo (14 Kelechi Iheanacho 76), 10 Jon Obi Mikel (13 Simeon Nwankwo 88), 11 Victor Moses, 12 Shehu Abdullahi, 18 Alex Iwobi (7 Ahmed Musa 62)

Kaliningrad

Croatia 2 Nigeria 0

Scorers:

Croatia: Etebo 32og, Modric 71pen

Nigeria: none

Match overview

Croatia took advantage of a lucky break to edge past a Nigeria side who failed to rise to the occasion in their opening match. The Europeans took the lead after half an hour when a corner was deflected in by Nigeria’s Oghenekaro Etebo. Neither side offered much in the attacking third but Croatia extended their lead with a Luka Modric penalty after Nigeria defender William Troost-Ekong was spotted pulling back Mario Mandzukic.

Talking point

Modric’s penalty in the 72nd minute was Croatia’s first shot on target in an underwhelming match. Their first shot on target from open play came from Kovacic in the 93rd minute.

Stats

Croatia/Nigeria

Possession (%): 54/46

Goal attempts: 11/14

Attempts on target: 7/5

Corners: 6/5

Fouls: 20/16

Pass accuracy (%): 84/84

Distance covered (km): 104/101

Croatia World Cup Guide

After reaching the 1998 and 2014 finals via the play-offs, Croatia again had to book their ticket  to the 2018 World Cup at the eleventh hour – although they were never in any danger of coming unstuck against Greece. A thoroughly inconsistent route march all in all: one moment, sublime, the next, downright careless.

Key Moments In Qualifying

Nov 2016
Marcelo Brozovic scores both goals in a 2-0 win against Iceland. The game was one of two Croatia qualifiers played behind closed doors as punishment for “discriminatory chants” by supporters.
Jun 2017
A 1-0 loss in Iceland is the moment the wheels start to come off. From beginning to end, a flat and ineffective display in which they conceded in the 90th minute.
Oct 2017
After a draw at home to Finland, coach Ante Cacic is replaced with former under-21 assistant Zlatko Dalic. In his first game at the helm, Dalic steers the side to a 2-0 win in Ukraine to secure a play-off berth.
Nov 2017
Specialists in head-to-head eliminators – Croatia boast a five out of five record in World Cup and Euro play-offs – they are too hot for Greece to handle, winning 4-1 on aggregate.

Croatia World Cup Group

Croatia are in a tough group alongside, Argentina, Iceland, and Nigeria.

Croatia World Cup Friendlies

On the 24th of March they went up against Peru and lost 2-0. A 1-0 win against Mexico followed but they then lost to Brazil 2-0. Finally on the 8th of June beat Senegal.

  • 24th March – Peru (lost 2-0)
  • 28th March – Mexico (won 1-0)
  • 3rd June – Brazil (lost 2-0)
  • 8th June – Senegal (won 2-1)

Croatia World Cup Fixtures

Croatia kick off their World Cup campaign against Nigeria on the 16th of June. Then their toughest opponents Argentina are on the 21st, and finally they finish up against Iceland on the 26th.

The Coach

Zlatko Dalic, age 51 (26.10.66)
Appointed caretaker in October 2017 and given the job permanently in November 2017, having spent five years (2006-11) on the Croat under-21 staff under Drazen Ladic. As head coach, he has been in charge of Croat outfits Varteks Varazdin, Rijeka and Slaven Belupo, plus clubs in Albania (Dinamo Tirana) and the Gulf (Al Faisaly Harmah, Al Hilal and Al Ain).

Experienced: He spent five years on the Croat under-21 staff and finally takes control of the national side (Getty Images)

The Players
Stars
The incomparable Luka Modric took over as skipper from Darijo Srna at the start of last season.
Stalwarts
As headstrong as he is talented, Mario Mandzukic is an all-day headache for defenders. Ivan Rakitic is an industrious, creative midfielder.
Missing
Centre-back Vedran Corluka has been out for several months after rupturing an Achilles tendon.
Debuts
An outstanding attacking midfield prospect, Nikola Vlasic made his competitive bow against Greece.

Related: Ivan Rakitic November 2007

Croatia World Cup Squad

Final 23-man squad – 

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

DEFENDERS: Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Domagoj Vida (Besiktas), Ivan Strinic (Sampdoria), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool), Sime Vrsaljko (Atletico Madrid), Josip Pivaric (Dynamo Kiev), Tin Jedvaj (Bayer Leverkusen), Duje Caleta-Car (Red Bull Salzburg).

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

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

Croatia World Cup Injuries

We will update you with injuries here.

Key: The play of Rakitic and Modric will determine how far Croatia go in Russia (Getty Images)

The Unanswered Questions

Could Luka Modric be affected by his loss of popularity back home?
Many Croat fans were unimpressed when he sensationally retracted his original testimony at the corruption trial of one-time Dinamo Zagreb chief Zdravko Mamic. The latter is very much a hate figure in the country and, with Modric appearing to side with him, the abuse of the Real Madrid ace has been considerable.

After creating havoc at Euro 2016, have the Croat fans calmed down?
Far from it. Their hardcore supporters remain fiercely opposed to the powers-that-be at the football federation and are adamant that president Davor Suker – once a prolific international striker – and his cohorts are corrupt.

Unsung: Badelj does all the dirty work for the team, and allows Modric to be creative (Getty Images)

Who is the side’s unsung hero?
Defensive midfielder Milan Badelj is the one who takes care of the dirty work and allows the likes of Modric and Ivan Rakitic to play.

Which areas of the pitch should concern coach Dalic the most?
In the absence of Marko Pjaca, Ivan Perisic is the squad’s only classic winger. Andrej Kramaric can do a job on the right but he is much more of a threat through the middle. Nikola Vlasic or Ante Rebic might be an incisive solution on that side.

 

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