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Things to know about Super Eagles World Cup foe Croatia - FCNaija

World Cup 2018 By: Collins Udeme | 02/12/2017

The Super Eagles of Nigeria were on Friday drawn in Group D of the 2018 FIFA World Cup to be hosted by Russia next summer alongside two European Countries and one of South America's football superpowers Argentina.

The Super Eagles’ curtain raiser at the Mundial will be against Croatia at the 35,000 –capacity Kaliningrad Stadium on Saturday, June 16, 2018 at 9pm (Kaliningrad time) before flying to Volgograd, where they take on 2016 Euros surprise package Iceland inside the 45,000 –capacity Volgograd Arena on Friday, June 22, 2018 by 6pm.

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Things to know about Super Eagles World Cup foe Croatia

Nigeria’s final group phase game is against Argentina on Tuesday, June 26, 2018, and the venue is the 68,000 –capacity Saint Petersburg Stadium, the second biggest venue at the finals.

Time is 9 pm, the same time that Croatia and Iceland will be battling at the Rostov Arena. Here, we take a look at Croatia and what threat they would pose to the Eagles passage to the knockout phase of the World Cup next year.

The man in charge

Bron October 26, 1966, Zlatko Dalic was also a professional football player who played as defensive midfielder. He previously worked with Dražen Ladic in Croatia national under-21 football team as an assistant coach.

He also managed Rijeka, Dinamo Tirana and Slaven Belupo before spending the first seven years of this decade coaching in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Head-to-Head

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This will be the first time both countries will face each other in any major competition at the senior level.

Croatia's World Cup fame

Croatia gained admission to Fifa in June 1993, meaning they were too late to compete for a place at the finals in the United States in 1994. However, they qualified for a finals at the first time of asking at France 98 and have reached all but one of the five summer tournaments since.

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Their best performance to date remains their first, when former Arsenal man Davor Suker, Zvonimir Boban et al helped them to a third-place finish after losing to hosts and eventual winners France in the semis.

How they qualified

Coached by Zlatko Dalic whose reign as The Blazers' boss has been short and sweet thus far following his appointment only in October 2017, replacing Ante Cacic. Dalic came to power two days before the final – and decisive – group game but it was enough for a triumph of improvisation in Kiev. Dalic led Croatia to a 2-0 win in Ukraine in his first game in charge to seal a play-off spot before they dispatching Greece 4-1 on aggregate to secure their World Cup ticket.

Key players

Luka Modric who was once Tottenham star but now at Real Madrid is the creative force at the heart of the Croatia side. Blessed with superb touch and vision, the 32-year-old has won the Champions League three times with his current club. He recently clocked up a century for his country, for whom he has scored 12 times.

Apart from the skillful Modric and the efficient Ivan Rakitic, Premier League Dejan Lovren (Liverpool) and Nikola Vlasic (Everton) alongside Manchester United's target Ivan Perisic who plays for Serie A giants Inter Milan are other names in the side the Super Eagles must be wary of.
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