World Cup: Croatia opens qualification door for Nigeria
The demolition of Argentina 3-0 by classy Croatia to claim a place in the World Cup knockout stage on Thursday has opened a door of qualification for Nigeria who face Iceland on Friday. Nigerians who spoke to our correspondent said the Super Eagles only need to beat Iceland to keep hope alive.
They argued that should the Eagles beat Iceland, they would also beat Argentina who are already psychologically subdued.
“The mathematics for qualification favours us. The way Croatia is playing, they will beat Iceland and have the maximum 9 points throwing the second position open. And with Argentina losing to Croatia by a wider goal margin than Nigeria, it means all we need to do is beat Iceland and draw with Argentina and we are through”, said a fan named Bayo Oluwole. Other fans at a viewing centre On Opebi Road, Ikeja, Lagos echoed the same sentiment.
Croatia stunned Argentina, thanks to goals by Ante Rebic, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic in their Group D match in Novgorod.
Rebic seized on a gaffe by keeper Willy Caballero to open the way to victory for the Balkan side.
The goal was followed by a superb strike from outside the area by captain Modric 10 minutes from time with Rakitic putting the icing on the cake in added time.
Twice champions Argentina, with Lionel Messi in their ranks, face a struggle to reach the last 16 even after taking one point from their first two games.
Croatia top the group with six points and they have five goals in the bag.
Argentina’s woes began when Caballero picked up a backpass and inexplicably lobbed it towards Rebic, who twisted in the air to whack in a volley in the 53rd minute.
Said Modric at the end of it all: “In the end our victory looks easy but it wasn’t that easy. I think the win was fully deserved, but it wasn’t easy. That first goal, in the second half, followed a mistake. It was a shot in the arm for us – we played a perfect game and you need a perfect game to beat such a great team. We cut off Messi, stopped him receiving the ball, he’s their most dangerous player.”
“The most important objective has been realised. We’ve got to take it game by game, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This win will boost our confidence for the coming games. It’s going to be tough but let’s avoid euphoria, give it a wide berth and keep our feet firmly on the ground to prepare for the next matches,” added Modric, who was also the Budweiser Man of the Match.