Despite a young and improved squad, Nigeria have been put in a very tough group

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Nigeria World Cup Fixtures, Squad, Group, Guide

Nigeria vs Croatia (16th June) Match Report

In the last game of the day, Nigeria face Croatia with the winner going to the top of the group. Match preview here.

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)

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

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

Nigeria World Cup Guide

Nigeria romped through the toughest of Africa’s 2018 World Cup qualifying groups with such ease that it is difficult to offer a convincing argument against their credentials. However, this current crop of Super Eagles remain a side in need of improvement. It is a young squad, much changed from the team that reached the second round at the last World Cup in Brazil. Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi are yet to deliver on the impact that has been expected of them, although Iwobi did get the goal that ensured World Cup qualification when they beat Zambia 1-0.

Key Moments in Qualifying 

Oct 2016
After the embarrassment of missing out on qualifying for the 2017 African Nations Cup finals, Nigeria go to Zambia for their opening game of their World Cup group and come away with an unexpected 2-1 win, courtesy of first half goals from Iwobi and Iheanacho.
Jun 2017
After losing at home to South Africa at the start of the 2019 Nations Cup qualifiers, coach Gernot Rohr only just manages to hold onto his job.
Sep 2017
The key group game against the African champions Cameroon has weeks of pre-match hype but what is expected to be a tightly fought affair turns into a 4-0 rout for Nigeria.
Oct 2017
Needing only to draw at home to Zambia, Iwobi scores the only goal of the game.

Nigeria World Cup Group

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

Nigeria World Cup Friendlies

On the 23rd of March Nigeria lost to Poland, and then did the same four days later against Serbia. A draw and then 2-1 loss to the DR Congo and England respectively followed. In their final game they lost 1-0 to the Czech Republic.

  • 23rd March – Poland (lost 1-0)
  • 27th March – Serbia (lost 2-0)
  • 28th May – DR Congo (drew 1-1)
  • 2nd June – England (lost 2-1)
  • 6th June – Czech Republic (lost 1-0)

Nigeria World Cup Fixtures

Nigeria open their World Cup account against Ivan Rakitic‘s Croatia on the 16th of June. Six days later on June 22nd they play Iceland. And finally they play Argentina on the 26th in Saint Petersburg. 

Related: Sergio Aguero November 2007

The Coach

Gernot Rohr, age 64 (28.6.53)
Appointed in August 2016 on a two-year contract, the former Bayern Munich player spent 12 years at Bordeaux, going on to coach the club and take them to the 1996 UEFA Cup Final, where they lost to Bayern. Began his African coaching career at Etoile Sahel and led the national teams of Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso before his surprise appointment by Nigeria.

Surprise: Rohr was a shock appointment, but he has proven how capable he is guiding the team to the World Cup (Getty Images)

The Players
Stars
Victor Moses proved in the campaign that Nigeria are one level up on their ability when he plays. John Obi Mikel is still the orchestrator in midfield, playing a more advanced midfield role than he did at club level.
Stalwarts
Leon Balogun has not been around long but he already captains the side and is the defensive bulwark in a relatively inexperienced back four.
Missing
First-choice goalkeeper Carl Ikeme has not played since announcing in July that he had been diagnosed with acute leukemia.
Debuts
Nigeria failed to get Tammy Abraham to give up his England career.

Nigeria World Cup Squad

Final 23-man squad – 

GOALKEEPERS: Francis Uzoho (Deportivo La Coruna), Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Enyimba), Daniel Akpeyi (Chippa United).

DEFENDERS: William Troost-Ekong and Abdullahi Shehu (Bursaspor), Tyronne Ebuehi (Ado Den Haag), Elderson Echiejile (Cercle Brugge KSV), Bryan Idowu (Amkar Perm), Chidozie Awaziem (Nantes FC), Leon Balogun (Brighton), Kenneth Omeruo (Kasimpasa).

MIDFIELDERS: Mikel John Obi (Tianjin Teda), Ogenyi Onazi (Trabzonspor), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City), Oghenekaro Etebo (Las Palmas), John Ogu (Hapoel Be’er Sheva), Joel Obi (Torino, Italy).

FORWARDS: Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City), Victor Moses (Chelsea), Odion Ighalo (Changchun Yatai), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Simeon Nwankwo (Crotone).

Nigeria World Cup Injuries

We will update you with any injuries regularly.

Top Dog: Moses is undeniably the best player in the Nigerian squad (Getty Images)

The Unanswered Questions

Could Nigeria go further than any other African country has gone before at a finals?
No African team has made the last four at a World Cup and it has always been supposed that Nigeria, with its population of some 190 million, would be the first. This squad, however, might not be the one to do so.

Will Nigeria change their goalkeeper before the World Cup?
Carl Ikeme’s absence left a void which Ikechuwku Ezenwa did not look capable of filling in the later stage of qualifying. This could see a return for Vincent Enyeama, who retired from the national team after a spat with previous coach Sunday Oliseh.

Recall: Will first-choice goalkeeper Carl Ikeme come back after being diagnosed with leukaemia? (Getty Images)

Will they be properly prepared?
For the first time, Nigeria look to have a proactive administration. They have already had a friendly in Russia, where they beat Argentina, and they also managed to persuade CAF to postpone their 2019 African Nations Cup qualifier in the Seychelles in March so that they can get themselves some more testing preparation before the World Cup finals.

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