Mikel: Nigeria have to improve set-piece play

World Cup 2018 By: Lolade Adewuyi | 17/06/2018

John Obi Mikel

Nigeria captain, John Obi Mikel, captured the mood of the entire team on Saturday night after their 2-0 opening Group D game against Croatia.

Walking to the team bus, many of the players wore long faces, dazed by their loss to the Europeans at the Kaliningrad Stadium.

Mikel, the leader and oldest player in the squad, returned to his second World Cup and was expected to be the creative force of the side.

But they lost in front of a crowd dominated by Croatian fans due to two dead-ball situations – the first, an Oghenekaro Etebo own-goal from a corner kick before Luka Modric converted a penalty in the second half following William Ekong’s foul on Mario Mandzukic during a routine corner kick.

Loss to Croatia leaves Nigeria with a tricky campaign

“Tough, tough day,” said Mikel with a shake of his head. “It’s difficult to concede from two set pieces, but we have to keep going,” he told

“We have to improve on the set-pieces, we have to keep trying.”

The game had been billed as a midfield battle between the Nigerian talisman and Modric who also had support from Ivan Rakitic and Ivan Perisic. Despite winning a couple of battles, the Croatian midfielders had better action.

“It was tough, we tried. It’s difficult to comprehend the game but we will keep trying,” he said.

Nigeria now face Iceland in Volgograd on June 22, a game they need to win if they are to keep hope alive for reaching the second round.

“There’s no other way, we have to improve. We have to get better as a team. If we didn’t concede the goals from the set pieces it would have been fine. But as a team we have to improve,” he said.