Nigeria’s Super Eagles may not go far in the current World Cup in Russia if the stakes don’t work in their favor if they continue to play like they did with Croatia on Saturday that caused them to lose 2-0.
Playing their first match against Croatia, after two of five Africa’s representatives of Egypt and Morocco narrowly lost their matches against their opponents; many Africans had hoped that Michel Obi’s group of youthful players could at least salvage the poor early performances of their continental compatriots in the north which sadly did not materialize.
Admittedly, Nigeria had a lot of youthful players, and one writer was forced to write that Nigeria ‘had the advantage if the match turned into a track meet’ in their first match against Croatia but it was not a track meet, the Africans could not rise to the occasion and lost 2-0 in the match.
Though it was a match that promised so much but delivered so little to thousands of Africans who had anticipated a miracle as Croatia’s Blazers secured a 2-0 victory over Nigeria to lead in Group D.
“The Super Eagles’ youth and athleticism were expected to provide some exciting scoring chances. Croatia’s experienced midfield was thought to provide some entertaining possession play. But neither came to the fore Saturday in Kaliningrad,” one writer wrote. How could Nigeria not realize that playing the ball around the field is not the ultimate goal of the World Cup?
This is how Croatia scored their first goal: Luka Modric sent a beautiful corner into the 6-yard box that was flicked to the back post where Mario Mandzukic was waiting. He got his head on the ball, but Oghenekaro Etebo’s back leg knocked it into the net for an own goal in the 32nd minute.
The second goal against Nigeria was highly debated. It was in the 71st minute when Nigeria’s William Ekong wrapped up a Croatian player (Mandzukic) as he jumped in the air for a header in the 6-yard box and the referee awarded Croatia a penalty award for the foul. Ekong attracted a yellow card for the rough play. The call was not accepted well by Nigeria. However, Croatia increased their score 2-0 when Luka Modric converted the penalty kick. Croatia is now top of the group.
Nigeria’s next match is on June 22 against Iceland. Iceland had drawn their first game (1-1) against favorites Argentina on Saturday and should tell you how much the challenge Nigeria will face on June 22 at the Volgograd Arena at 6 pm. If Nigeria does not increase in their offensive attacks in their remaining encounters, there is no way they can make any further impact in the tournament and they may end their campaign on a sorrowful note.
Their Group member of Iceland, Argentina, and Croatia is a very tough team of competitors and without much excuses, we hope Nigeria will approach their next game, which should be without saying, in an attempt to change their chances for the better to go far in the tournament.