Croatia topped Group D in the World Cup with a 2-0 win after earning a gifted goal and a penalty against Nigeria in Kaliningrad on Saturday.
With this win, Croats have the advantage when they face Argentina on Thursday in Nizhny Novgorod.
Their captain Luka Modric (pictured), who was at the heart of every good move, said Saturday’s win was an ideal start to their Russian adventure. Modric said the team would continue their journey in the way they planned before coming for the World Cup.
Both Croatia and Nigeria played an attacking game but a goal eluded them as the shots were either weak or wide of the target.
Croats controlled the first 15 minutes of the game with Ivan Perisic almost scoring but his shot from outside the box went just over the bar.
In the 32d minute, Croatia’s Mario Manduzkic rose to head a ball from a corner. Oghenekaro Etebo tried to deflect the ball but it rolled in giving Croatia 1-0 lead.
In the second half, Nigeria tried hard for the equaliser. Victor Moses made a try at the goal but his shot went wide of the post.
Then Moses sent a corner kick straight to Leon Balogun who failed to head it home. In the 58th minute, Odion Ighalo headed a neat cross from inside the box but Croatia’s goalkeeper Subasic held it easily.
Croatia got their second goal in the 71st minute when they earned a penalty after Mario Mandzukic was held in the box by William Troost-Ekong. Modric made no mistake and gave Croatia 2-0 lead.
Nigeria got another chance to score in the 77th minute after a neat pass by John Obi Mikel, but the shot went wide.
Croatian cities were awash with red and white squares (the team’s uniform) on Saturday night as Croatia played Nigeria. One among them was Dubrovnik in southern Croatia fronting the Adriatic Sea.
The city’s squares, cafes and restaurants were filled with football fans watching the proceedings at Kaliningrad on big screens specially arranged for public viewing, local reports say.
Dubrovnik erupted in joy when their home team took the lead.