Nigeria will face their first opponents of the FIFA world cup 2018 on 17th June. They will be up against the strong and tough Croatia at the Kaliningrad stadium.
Nigerian squad has entered the tournament as the underdogs and they are very happy with the tag given. They are at the lowermost position in their group D, and are under no pressure whatsoever. The captain John Obi Mikel, who plays for Tianjin Teda as a mid fielder, says that his team can amaze everyone with their game play. They have already done that once when they qualified for the tournament.
The team has a mix of experience and young blood, which may work wonders for them. The Nigerian players are spread all over the globe and they have a decent attacking talent. The forward, Alex Iwobi leads a bunch of attacking players like Ahmed Musa, Moses Simon, Odion Ighalo and Simeon Nwankwo. The star of the team, Victor Moses who plays for Chelsea as a winger is one to watch out for along with the captain himself who is an advanced mid fielder. Leon Balogunm, the defender from Brighton and Hove Albion, though young, lends experience to the back four.
Under the experienced coach Zlatko Dalic, the Croatia team has proved that it is hard working. Apart from that, they have good quality players at the midfielder position with an experience of the captain Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic and Marcelo Brozovic from Inter Milan.
An equally strong defense comprising Darijo Srna, Besiktas’ Domajog Vida, Vedran Corluka from Lokomotiv Moscow and Sime Vrsaliko (Atletico Madrid) form a formidable group of defenders. Forward Ivan Perisic’s (from Inter Milan) pace needs to catch up at the right moment for the counter attacks. Juventus’ Mario Mandzukic is also dependable and talented. Defensive midfielder from Fiorentina is considered as the squad’s hero who does not have the recognition that he deserves.
Previously, Croatia had qualified in the world cup for 4 times and once in the semi finals. That time, the team had a lot many stars. The current team does not have as many stars but some quality players.
Nigeria possesses the experience of taking part in 6 of the last 7 world cup tournaments and this time too, they are not new. It is the most respected African nation for football and it is a matter of time and play that they can convert these appearances in the world cup to wins.
At the moment, Croatia seems to be the favorite.