Pulse.com.gh logo
Go


Football 'Naive' Nigeria youth schooled by Croatia master Modric

Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr admitted his young team had been "naive" in a 2-0 loss to Croatia in their opening Group D game Saturday, continuing a dismal recent record at World Cups.

  • Published: , Refreshed:
Croatia's midfielder Luka Modric (L) celebrates scoring a penalty with his teammate forward Ante Rebic during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group D football match at the Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad on June 16, 2018 play

Croatia's midfielder Luka Modric (L) celebrates scoring a penalty with his teammate forward Ante Rebic during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group D football match at the Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad on June 16, 2018

(AFP)

Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr admitted his young team had been "naive" in a 2-0 loss to Croatia in their opening Group D game Saturday, continuing a dismal recent record at World Cups.

A Luka Modric penalty 20 minutes from time and a first-half own goal sealed victory for a Croatia side brimming with technical ability, and the Super Eagles -- who brought the youngest squad to Russia -- have now won just one of their last 13 games on football's biggest stage.

"We are disappointed but we must recognise Croatia were better tonight and my young players made some mistakes," Rohr told reporters after the game in Russia's European exclave of Kaliningrad.

With rivals Argentina and Iceland only managing a 1-1 draw earlier Saturday in Saransk, both sides had a chance to take control of Group D.

Nigeria, knowing they were always likely to struggle for possession against a central one-two of Modric and Ivan Rakitic, were content to sit back and allow Croatia to come to them.

After 10 minutes, Juventus target man Mario Mandzukic teed up Ivan Perisic at the edge of the area only for the Inter Milan forward to blaze over.

Croatia, semi-finalists at France '98, have struggled to live up to the lofty expectations borne of an embarrassment of midfield riches, and meekly lost their World Cup opener 3-1 to hosts Brazil four years ago.

How Twitter reacted to Nigeria's loss to Croatia at World Cup play

Nigeria's defender William Troost-Ekong heads the ball over Croatia's forward Mario Mandzukic during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group D football match at the Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad on June 16, 2018

(AFP)

There is a sense of now-or-never for the Balkans nation at this tournament and Modric said his side would lift their game when they meet Lionel Messi's Argentina in their next match.

"It's going to be a very difficult match. They have huge amounts of quality, but this win will really boost our confidence and we are going to up our game."

The last time Croatia won their opening group game was back in 1998, and coach Zlatko Dalic said he was glad the squad had put that unfortunate record behind them.

"We were disciplined and we deserved the win. We fought for this," he told reporters.

Nigeria's average age heading into Russia was a little over 25 years old and at times the experience gap showed.

Rohr kept faith in 19-year-old keeper Francis Uzoho but the Deportivo stopper's first real action was picking the ball out of the net.

Croatia's defender Domagoj Vida (R) fights for the ball with Nigeria's forward Kelechi Iheanacho during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group D football match at the Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad on June 16, 2018 play

Croatia's defender Domagoj Vida (R) fights for the ball with Nigeria's forward Kelechi Iheanacho during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group D football match at the Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad on June 16, 2018

(AFP)

Just after the half-hour mark, Mandzukic, industrious in his hold-up play, chested a Andrej Kramaric cross back to Ante Rebic, whose fizzing shot was blocked. The resulting corner saw Rebic return the favour with a near-post flick on met by a diving Mandzukic.

Oghenekaro Etebo, up until that point one of Nigeria's best performers, was wrong-footed and bundled into his own net.

'All in our hands'

Nigeria responded well, with Arsenal forward Alex Iwobi's shot from a cleared free kick blocked on 45 minutes and his Premier League colleague Victor Moses shooting wide from 30 yards on the stroke of half time.

They had the best of the start of the second period, forcing Croatia to bat away three corners in succession, before Moses again snatched a shot wide of Danjiel Subasic's left upright.

But just as Nigeria showed some signs of life, in the 71st minute William Ekong held down Mandzukic from a cross in the area and referee Sandro Ricci immediately pointed to the spot.

Modric's gilded right foot guided it to Uzoho's right side.

"We didn't concede a goal from open play, only from set pieces so this is not a question of tactics," Rohr said.

"Sometimes we were a little bit naive on set pieces but we will work on it."

Nigeria play Iceland on June 22 in Volgograd and Rohr insisted his team could still make it out of what is a highly competitive group.

"We are only one point behind (Iceland) and all is in our hands so let's be positive. Let them learn from this defeat and try to do better," said the former Bordeaux coach.

Despite fears pre-match, there was no reports of any racist chanting from among the near-capacity crowd in Kaliningrad.

Do you ever witness news or have a story that should be featured on Pulse Ghana?
Submit your stories, pictures and videos to us now via WhatsApp: +233507713497, Social Media @pulseghana: #PulseEyewitness & DM or Email: eyewitness@pulse.com.gh.

Recommended Articles

Recommended Videos




Top Articles

1 Serie A Here's how much Ronaldo will earn every minute at Juventusbullet
2 World Cup 2018 All the award winners of the 2018 FIFA World Cupbullet
3 Today In History Tony Baffoe makes history at the FIFA World Cup finalbullet
4 2019 Championship CAF strip Ghana of hosting Africa U-17...bullet
5 FIFA World Cup FIFA invites President Akufo-Addo to watch World...bullet
6 World Cup 2018 France accused of using Africans to reach World...bullet
7 World Cup 2018 Man loses GHc10K bet after Croatia’s loss to...bullet
8 Football Ronaldo mania awaits superstar forward after...bullet
9 Revealed President Akufo-Addo establishes football...bullet
10 Football Ronaldo sparks Champions League dreams ahead...bullet

Top Videos

1 Anas Aremeyaw Anas finally takes off beads on TVbullet
2 Video Sulley Muntari cooks for wife Menayebullet
3 Video Shatta Wale displays great football skills that would delight youbullet
4 Video Gyan rubbishes assertion that Ghana would have won Russia 2018bullet
5 Video Watch the highlights of new Black Stars wonder kidbullet
6 Ghost Goal Italian referee shows remorse for disallowing...bullet
7 Back to the Roots Memphis Depay dancing ‘adobe’ in Cape Coastbullet
8 Video Sannie Daara received GHC 4,000 bribe in Anas exposébullet
9 Video Watch how Essien and his Chelsea legends suffered...bullet
10 Long Shot Michael Essien's favourite goal for Chelseabullet

Football