Croatia moved to the top of Group D with a well deserved 2-0 win over Nigeria at the Kaliningrad Stadium on Saturday night.
The result is quite a flattery to the Super Eagles because the Blades should have won by a far bigger margin.
Both teams were eyeing a win in the knowledge that it will take them to the top of Group D following the draw between Argentina and Iceland earlier today.
Croatia wore their famous red and white check shirt while Nigeria donned their dark green change strip.
Croatia immediately took control of the game as Ivan Rakitic attempted to thread a ball through to Andrej Kramaric, but was flagged offside. Young Nigeria goalkeeper Francis Uzoho – in a truly wild goalkeeper kit – got a useful early touch.
Luka Modric was sitting deep and saw plenty of the ball early on, spraying passes and looking to get his team-mates moving forwards as often as he could.
Alex Iwobi’s long-range effort failed to beat the keeper and it looked like Nigeria were not afraid to take their chances from the distance as the Eagles pressed forward.
Croatia nearly went ahead in the 14th minute. Ante Rebic cut in from the left and found Mario Mandzukic, who laid off the ball for Ivan Perisic on the edge of the area. The Inter Milan star struck narrowly over the bar with Uzoho beaten.
Kramaric then took a touch and drove from fully 30 yards. It was always curling wide, but Uzoho was worried for a brief moment as it sailed past his right-hand post.
Striker Odion Ighalo ran at Domagoj Vida, but his shot from a tight angle deflected out for a corner off Lovren. The set piece fell to Iwobi on the edge of the area and Lovren did well to head away as the ball ricocheted back into the box.
The curtain raiser arrived in the 32nd minute. It was cruel on Nigeria as a corner was deflected into the goal by the unlucky Etebo Oghenekaro from two yards out. Modric’s corner was flicked on by Rebic and Mandzukic headed towards goal and it bounced off Etebo and in at the far post.
A trademark Modric long pass found Rebic on the right. The ball was then fed in by Rakitic and Kramaric swivelled to head with his back to goal and it sailed narrowly, narrowly over the top.
Croatia had all the chances and most of the possession. It was a lucky goal, but they deserved it at halftime.
The Blades’ pressure eventually paid dividends when Troost Ekong pulled the shirt of an attacker in the box.
Modric sent Uzoho the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Croatia ended the game very much in the ascendancy.
And on this performance, they will prove tough opponents for Argentina and Iceland in group games to come.
For the Eagles, they will hope to bounce back to reckoning when they face Iceland on Friday.
Croatia: Danijel Subasic, Ivan Strinic, Dejan Lovren, Domagoj Vida, Sime Vrsaljko, Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic, Andrej Kramaric, Ante Rebic, Mario Mandzukic
Nigeria: Francis Uzoho, Brian Idowu, Shehu Abdullahi, Leon Balogun, William Troost-Ekong, Oghenekaro Etebo, John Obi Mikel, Wilfred Ndidi, Victor Moses, Odion Ighalo, Alex Iwobi