Moscow: 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.
In Russia’s sleepy European exclave of Kaliningrad perhaps best known for its nuclear missile sites — the much-hyped youngsters of Nigeria struggled to ignite against Croatia’s midfield technicians.
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.
But they were rigid and well-organised, and largely restricted Modric’s distribution to the flanks, where Croatia’s final ball was poor.