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nigeria18Croatia and Nigeria open their World Cup 2018 Group D campaigns in Kaliningrad on Saturday and although Croatia are odds on favourites, this still looks a really tricky game to call

 

 

 

Group D also includes Argentina and Iceland and you can read our outright preview for this quartet here.

 

Croatia:

Croatia came through the European play offs, beating Greece 4-1 on aggregate over 2 legs. They earned that play off spot after finishing as runners up in their group, 2 points behind Iceland with Ukraine and Turkey missing out. Their record in the qualifying group comprised of 6 wins, 2 draws and 2 defeats scoring 15 goals and conceding 4. They will bump into Iceland again later in this group and given Argentina also lie in wait, this looks a really competitive group.

Croatia’s most recent major tournament finals came in Euro 2016. They came through a tough group with 2 wins and 1 draw before bowing out in the first knockout round, losing 1-0 to Portugal in extra time.

In the World Cup 2014 finals Croatia failed to make it out of their group after losing 3-1 to Brazil and Mexico either side of a 4-0 victory over Cameroon.

Recent friendly international results include a 2-1 win over Senegal and 2-0 defeat to Brazil. Back in March they beat Mexico 1-0 but lost 2-0 to Peru.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Danijel Subasic (Monaco), Lovre Kalinic (Gent), Dominik Livakovic (Dinamo Zagreb).

Defenders: Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Domagoj Vida (Besiktas), Ivan Strinic (Milan), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool), Sime Vrsaljko (Atletico Madrid), Josip Pivaric (Dynamo Kiev), Tin Jedvaj (Bayer Leverkusen), Duje Caleta-Car (Red Bull Salzburg).

Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona), Mateo Kovacic (Real Madrid), Milan Badelj (Fiorentina), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan), Filip Bradaric (Rijeka).

Forwards: Mario Mandzukic (Juventus), Ivan Perisic (Inter Milan), Nikola Kalinic (AC Milan), Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim), Marko Pjaca (Juventus), Ante Rebic (Fiorentina).

 

Nigeria:

Nigeria topped their African region group finishing 6 points clear of Zambia and given they also had Algeria and AFCON 2017 winners Cameroon for company that represents decent form. They were unbeaten with 4 wins and 2 draws, scoring 12 goals and conceding just 4.

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We didn’t see the Super Eagles in the AFCON 2017 finals and in the 2014 World Cup finals they made it through a group which also included Argentina before bowing out 2-0 to France in the first knockout round. In South Africa 2010 Argentina were again a group stage opponent and Nigeria managed to take just 1 point from 3 matches to exit the tournament early.

Recent friendly form is not encouraging with 4 defeats and 1 draw in the last 5 and earlier this month they lost 2-1 to England and 1-0 to Czech Republic.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (Deportivo La Coruna), Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Enyimba), Daniel Akpeyi (Chippa United).

Defenders: William Troost-Ekong, Abdullahi Shehu (both Bursaspor), Tyronne Ebuehi (Benfica), Elderson Echiejile (Cercle Brugge), Bryan Idowu (Amkar Perm), Chidozie Awaziem (Porto), Leon Balogun (Brighton), Kenneth Omeruo (Chelsea).

Midfielders: Mikel John Obi (Tianjin Teda), Ogenyi Onazi (Trabzonspor), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester), Oghenekaro Etebo (CD Feirense), John Ogu (Hapoel Be'er Sheva), Joel Obi (Torino, Italy).

Forwards: Ahmed Musa, Kelechi Iheanacho (both Leicester), Victor Moses (Chelsea), Odion Ighalo (Changchun Yatai), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Simeon Nwankwo (Crotone).

 

Recent Head to Head

N/A

The Betting - Bet Now

Match Result:

Croatia 7/20

Draw 26/10

Nigeria 17/4

Note, odds quoted are an approximate average and are correct at the time of last update but are subject to change

 

Verdict:

The team sheet suggests Croatia possess the greater quality and big tournament pedigree but on qualifying form I would not be rushing in to back them at this price.

Although the Super Eagles recent friendly results would be of some concern I think they could be tough to beat and with both sides mindful of Argentina being the group favourites, a draw here gets my vote.

 

Bets: Match Result Draw 26/10

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