Croatia takes on the visitors Nigeria at “Kaliningrad Stadium” in the round one of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group stage. The match will be played in Kaliningrad on Saturday, June 16th.
The Croatians managed to catch the leaving train and promoted to the final stage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. Having handled a direct pass to the final round to Iceland, the team deserved a right to join the Mundial only through the European Play Offs. Despite the astonishing squad and comparatively easy group (Ukraine, Turkey and Iceland) together with humble Greece in the Play Offs, “Vatreni” had certain difficulties in promoting further with a bit of luck. At first sight the side’s roster is fantastic, however, there is no balance between the lines. There are too many playmakers in the squad, but the wings are lacking power just like midfield and defense need more speed. In theory the Croatians look unbeatable while in reality it is far from being the truth. Zlatko Dalic joined the team only in the very end of the qualification, hence, he had no time for constructing the side’s game yet. And it looks like the individual mastery will prevail over team play on the upcoming Mundial. Particularly now, when the Croatians’ spirit is undermined by endless conflicts between the fans, footballers and national federation. The friendly tackles conducted this spring haven’t impressed either as Croatia lost to Brazil and Peru plus had hardly won the fight against Senegal 2:1 and gained miserable 1:0 triumph over Mexico.
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I am convinced that the Croatian are overestimated due to big names and I truly believe that Nigeria will prove this wrong in the forthcoming encounter. “Super Eagles” prefer to play on the break that suits great to the opponent’s game which got used to dominate in ball possession. The side had some issues in terms of organization and discipline, however, these problems are in the past. The German head-coach Gernot Rohrhas brought all the things in order, as a result, the players are focused and well-motivated. The team went through the Confederation of African Football's Preliminary Competition for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia at a high note, having failed not a single time with 12-4 goal difference gained a very tough rivalry against Cameroon, Algeria and Zambia.
At the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Nigeria managed to promote from the group, having left Iran as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina over the board; it even scored two goals to Argentina, but failed with 2:3 scoreline. On the 1/8 stage the Africans held strong against France till the 79th minute. “Super Eagles” have changed for better in these four years that passed, thus, I believe that Nigeria is quite able to give a fight to Croatia and its chances for success are underestimated.
Prediction for the match: Nigeria to win with +1.0 Asian handicap.