A Luka Modric penalty and an own goal from Oghenekaro Etebo gave former semi-finalists Croatia an easy 2-0 win over Nigeria in their World Cup Group D opener on Saturday.

Oghenekaro Etebo was helpless in deflecting the ball into his own net in the 32nd minute and a second half spot-kick from Real Madrid star Modric sealed the points.

Nigeria rarely looked capable of threatening an equalizer and must improve considerably to have any chance of reaching the knock-out phase.

Argentina were held to a 1-1 draw with Iceland earlier in the group. Croatia next meet the two-time champions Argentina on Thursday while Nigeria take on Iceland on Friday.

Croatia finished a brilliant third in their debut World Cup at France 98 but have since failed to progress past the group stage.

That is expected to change this time as a golden generation, Modric at its heart, tries once more to click on the biggest stage.

“It was a very tough game but we have expected that,” Modric said.

“I believe that on the wings of this win we will up our game and continue our journey in the way that we planned before coming here.”

Ivan Perisic fired over from outside the box but the Nigerian defence could generally keep the opposing forwards at bay.

That changed with a stroke of blind luck when Mario Manduzkic threw himself at a flicked-on corner and headed the ball off Etebo to deflect beyond keeper Francis Uzoho.

Andrej Kramaric looped a header onto the roof of the net and half-time arrived with neither team having officially registered a shot on target.

Nigeria emerged invigorated from the break and Victor Moses dragged a shot wide of the near post after cutting in from the right.

A save was finally made in the 59th when Danijel Subasic easily held a weak header from Odion Ighalo.

But when Mandzukic was grappled by William Ekong at a set piece, man of the match Modric coolly sent Uzoho the wrong way from the spot to seal the tie with 19 minutes remaining.

“Croatia were the better team,” Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr admitted. “My team have struggled with their limited experience against this side.

“But I was not unhappy with the performance.”

Substitute Mateo Kovacic could even have made it three in injury-time but sent a weak shot straight at Uzoho.

News Reporter
Blank NEWS Online founding Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, Albert Eruorhe Ograka, is a Graduate of Mass Communication. He also holds a Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) in Journalism from the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ).

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