Croatia take on Nigeria this Saturday in what could be a decisive game in Group C. With Argentina the strong favourites to take top spot, the outcome of this fixture will have a big say in who finishes second. The European side, boasting several outstanding talents including Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, will go into the game as favourites but will be wary of a Nigerian side that have obvious strengths.
The game will also be fascinating as it provides two contrasting styles, with Croatia keen on a possession-based, slow build up style, whereas Nigeria have electric pace on the break that will make this game intriguing. Given what is at stake, it’s likely to be cagey but should we get a winner, they know they will have taken a big step to the knockout rounds.
Here we will give you Croatia vs Nigeria betting tips, look at where the game will be won, the key men and a Croatia vs Nigeria prediction for the crucial Group D clash.
Our Croatia vs Nigeria prediction: Croatia 1-0 Nigeria
Our Croatia vs Nigeria prediction tips is for the European side to edge a very close game and take a huge three points.
The Croatia side is excellent when you look at them player for player. As mentioned they have Modric and Rakitic who play for Real Madrid and Barcelona, whilst the likes of Mario Mandzukic (Juventus), Ivan Perisic (Inter Milan), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool) and Sime Vrsaljko (Atletico Madrid) are just some of the others who play at elite club sides. Whilst they lack top, top players in goal and up front, they are a very good side on the whole and will look to control the midfield with their quality clear in that area. They will want to drag Nigeria around the pitch and take advantage of any lapses in concentration that come as they tire mentally.
However, the African nation have threats of their own, with the likes of Alex Iwobi and Victor Moses going to be taking the fight to Croatia in the final third, whilst Leicester’s Wilfred Ndidi will be tasked with disrupting the effective Croatian midfield.
Our recommended tip – Croatia to win
Even though we think Nigeria will make it competitive and their speed in forward areas could cause the Croats big problems, there’s no doubting that technically Zlatko Dalic’s men are at a higher level.
That should see them control the game and with the likes of Modric, Perisic, Mandzukic and Andrej Kramaric in the final third, they will inevitably get chances. Therefore, we are backing the European side to sneak a win and they may have to be patient as Nigeria will make things hard for them and it could be a tight opening period.
The clash between the two countries in Kaliningrad on Saturday will be the first time they have ever met, which is perhaps not too surprising.
Croatia head to Russia in mixed form, having won two and lost two of their warm up games, with one defeat coming against favourites Brazil. However, they have had a very tough ride just to get Russia and coming through those pressure games could bode well. They defeated Ukraine in a must-win game just to make the play-offs before beating Greece easily over two legs.
For Nigeria, things are more concerning. Whilst they deserve huge praise for getting to Russia from a very tough qualifying section, friendly results in the past few months will worry fans. They’ve not won in their last four games, losing three and not playing well in the process. They will hope an increase in intensity and importance in Russia changes things.
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Players to watch – Luka Modric & Alex Iwobi
Modric needs no introduction as he has established himself as one of the best midfielders in the world over the past few years. He will try and control the game with his fantastic passing range and will try and unlock the Nigerian defence with clever through balls. He will be under pressure to perform due to off the field issues that haven’t endeared him to the Croatian public back home.
Arsenal man Iwobi has only shown flashes of his talent at club level and not delivered regularly enough but he will be a key creative cog in this team. He will be responsible for linking the midfield and attack and could find space on the break on Saturday.