While Croatia’s performance could have been much better, media in the Balkan region is not shying away from praising the national team.
The Croatia national football team kicked off their World Cup with a 2:0 victory against Nigeria in Kaliningrad. The first goal for Croatia was an own goal by Oghenekaro Etebo in the 32nd minute, while Luka Modrić nailed a penalty in the 71st minute. After their first game, Croatia is at the top of Group D, reports Index.hr on June 17, 2018.
While the overall performance was not something for Dalić’s team to celebrate, Croatia’s victory was never in question. Croatia was indeed the favorite to win the match, though Dalić made comments in the past that the toughest game in the group would be against Nigeria. I guess after watching Argentina struggle yesterday, he wasn’t so far off.
Oddly enough, both of Croatia’s goals came from the corner. In the 33rd minute, Modrić crossed into the box, and while Mandžukić and Rebić both got touches on the ball, it was Oghenekaro Etebo to secure an own goal for the Croatia lead. In the 70th minute, the goal ultimately came from the corner again. Ekong’s wrestling arms on Mandžukić earned him a yellow card and Croatia a penalty. Modrić hit the penalty with accuracy, and until the 90th minute of the game, there was no other shot near the Nigerian goal.
“It was extremely important for us to open the tournament with a win, regardless of the match between Argentina and Iceland, we were focused on us. We believe that we will continue to step up our game on the wings of this victory, and it will give us more confidence to continue our journey towards our goal,” Luka Modrić said after the game.
“I would like to congratulate the players on the win, the game was tough, but we played disciplined. A tough start, a tough game, but we achieved a valuable win. We said that we will not calculate anything, that we have to go for the win and we came to that. Deservedly,” added Zlatko Dalić.
After the first-leg, Croatia leads Group D with 3 points, Argentina and Iceland have one, while Nigeria has zero in last. In the second round, Croatia plays against Argentina, which will take place on June 21st.
Croatia’s win over Nigeria has certainly stirred up the euphoria, which is expected since the national team hasn’t won an opening match of the World Cup since 1998. Croatia’s neighbors in the region couldn’t even hold back from honoring Modrić & Co. against the African team.
“They have what we hoped Croatia would this championship, we saw a game that promises them a long stay in Russia, although Zlatko Dalić’s real tests have yet to come – and the next and the biggest – Argentina,” says the Serbian Telegraf, and the title itself is quite bombastic:
“Routine Croatia against Nigeria, Checkers are World Class!”
Other portals in the region like Kurira, B92, Klix.ba or Sportsport.ba wrote similar headlines, all believing that Croatia can go a long way.