The last game on Saturday features two highly ambitious squads who have never met before…
Croatia Vs Nigeria
Croatia is playing against Nigeria at Kaliningrad Stadium in Russia for the 2018 World Cup on the 16th of June. It’s an exciting game ahead as these countries have never battled on the pitch inside or outside of the World Cup.
Marcelo Brozovic scored both goals in a 2-0 win over Iceland in November 2016. This game was one of the two games Croatia had to play behind closed doors due to abusive chanting. In October 2017 after a draw at home to Finland, coach Ante Cacic was replaced with former under-21 assistant Zlatko Dalic. He steered them to a 2-0 win over Ukraine for his first game of the same month. That year in November Croatia became specialists in head-to-head eliminators having a five out of five record in the World Cup and Euro play-offs.
After being the appointed caretaker in October 2017, 51-year-old Dalic was given the permanent job in coaching Croatia one month later. He has spent five years on the Croat-under-21 staff. He was previously in charge of Varteks Varazdin, Rijeka and Slaven Belupo, as well as clubs in Albania.
Croatia is most definitely not short of talent, but Luka is the man who leads his troops into war. He has established himself as one of the finest midfielders in Europe through his displays at Real Madrid. Success isn’t a rarity for Luka with over 100 caps to his name and having lifted the Champions League trophy three times in the last four seasons. His form in Russia is will be crucial to Croatia’s chances of getting through their group. Luka became Croatia’s new team captain replacing legendary Darijo Srna at the start of the last season.
Centreback Vedran Corluka has been off the pitch for several months rupturing one of his Achilles’ tendons. Attacking-midfielder Nikola Vlasic made his debut against Greece on November 12th, 2017 where he was an outstanding prospect.
Nigeria marched through the toughest of Africa’s 2018 World Cup Qualifying Groups with ease. From this, it is difficult to offer a convincing argument against their credentials. The squad is made up of many young players, very different from the team that reached the second round at the last World Cup in Brazil.
In August 2017, 64-year-old former Bayern Munich player Gernot Rohr signed his two-year contract coaching Nigeria. He spent 12 years playing at Bordeaux, going on to coach the club and take them to the 1996 UEFA Cup Final, where they lost to Bayern. He began his African coaching career at Etoile Sahel in Tunisia, also leading national teams Gabon, Niger, Burkina and Faso before his surprise appointment for Nigeria.
Moses launched his career in the Championship with Crystal Palace, before his performances caught the attention of Wigan Athletic, where he made his Premier League debut. The 27 -year-old Nigerian plays as winger or wing-back for Premier League Club Chelsea and the Nigerian National team. He proved to us in the campaign that Nigeria’s playing ability is one level up if he’s present.
JOHN OBI MIKEL
Mikel started his official football career at the age of 12 when he was up picked as a talented footballer from over 3,000 in the Pepsi Football Academy. He is still the orchestrator of the midfield, playing a more advanced midfield role now than he ever did at club level.
Nigeria’s first-choice goalkeeper Carl Ikeme has not played since the announcement of his acute leukaemia. Tammy Abraham was supposed to be debuting in Russia for Nigeria however they failed at getting him to give up his England career.
SPORTS OF THE DAYS VERDICT
Aside the chance of Nigeria’s unpredictability, we think Croatia have this one secured if Luka’s paying.
Google’s win probability is at just 50% for Croatia to beat Nigeria. The chances of Nigeria winning is at 23% with a 27% probability of it being a draw.