The Nigerian Super Eagles fell 2 – 0 to the Vatreni’s of Croatia in their group D clash in Kaliningrad on Saturday evening. Oghenekaro Etebo was the unfortunate recipient of an own goal after poor defending on a set-piece led to Croatia’s opening goal in the 32nd minute. The Super Eagles failed to create any real goal scoring chances but Odion Ighalo was a bright spot that troubled the Croatian defence.
Luke Modric put the nail on the coffin in the 2nd half by converting a 72nd minute penalty after William Ekong grabbed Mario Mandzukic in the box from a set-piece – yet another set-piece frailty from Nigeria. Nigeria never really got going and the game was an anti-climax compared to the other games that were played earlier in the day.
Alex Iwobi failed to make any real impact on the game and he seemed a bit detached from the central play. Questions were raised on why John Obi Mikel played the no.10 role, a role that would have better suited Alex Iwobi. Victor Moses was energetic but lacked end product and always seemed to be on the floor trying to buy cheap free-kicks. Despite Etebo’s own goal he seemed the brightest spot in our midfield, but there was no cohesion in the team play and the Super Eagles looked like a very good NPFL team – definitely the poorest team that has played in the World Cup 2018 so far – even worse than Saudi Arabia, yes I said it.
A lot of questions will be asked of Gernot Rohr and how he set the team up because they lacked synergy and there was absence of a real game plan in the team structure. He also did not change the original game plan to adapt to the game, especially sticking to a 4-2-3-1 instead of a 5-3-2. Nigeria will be looking to dust off this performance in preparation to the next group game against Iceland on Friday because they will face a greater challenge.
Earlier, Lionel Messi failed to impress as Argentina could only manage a 1 – 1 draw against a well organised Iceland team. Sergio Aguero gave La Albiceleste the lead with a well taken shot in the 19th minute before Alfreo Finnbogason restored parity just five minutes later (questionable Argentine defending again). Messi missed a golden chance to give Argentina the lead by failing to convert a penalty in the 64th minute and he will quickly want to put the game behind him.
France also struggled to force a 2-1 victory over the Socceroos of Australia. Australia gave a valiant effort by being tight, compact and aggressive in the game which rattled Les Blues creative players. Antoine Greizmann gave France the lead with a 58th minute penalty before Mile Jedinak restored the lead with another penalty in the 62nd minute. Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba had the last laugh with an 81st minute dink shot over Aussie goal keeper Matthew Ryan to ensure victory for France.
However, the most enthralling game of the lot was Denmark’s 1 – 0 victory over Peru. Yussuf Poulsen’s 59th minute strike was the difference for the Danes who will count themselves fortunate to run away with victory against the South Americans. Peru’s Christian Cueva failed to convert from the penalty spot, and the team missed tonnes of chances to ensure they got nothing from the game.