Croatian master Modric schools Nigeria’s young guns

first_imgWith rivals Argentina and Iceland only managing a 1-1 draw earlier Saturday in Saransk, both sides had a chance to take control of Group D.Nigeria, knowing they were always likely to struggle for possession against a central one-two of Modric and Ivan Rakitic, were content to sit back and allow Croatia to come to them.But they were rigid and well-organised, and largely restricted Modric’s distribution to the flanks, where Croatia’s final ball was poor.After 10 minutes, Juventus target man Mario Mandzukic teed up Ivan Perisic at the edge of the area only for the Inter Milan forward to blaze over.© AFPNigeria’s defender William Troost-Ekong heads the ball over Croatia’s forward Mario Mandzukic during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group D football match at the Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad on June 16, 2018© AFP Attila KISBENEDEKCroatia, semi-finalists at France ’98, have struggled to live up to the lofty expectations borne of an embarrassment of midfield riches, and meekly lost their World Cup opener 3-1 to hosts Brazil four years ago.There is a sense of now-or-never for the Balkans nation at this tournament, in stark contrast to Nigeria, who brought the competition’s youngest squad to Russia.Coach Gernot Rohr kept faith in 19-year-old keeper Francis Uzoho but the Deportivo stopper’s first real action was picking the ball out of the net.Just after the half-hour mark, Mandzukic, industrious in his hold-up play, chested a Andrej Kramaric cross back to Ante Rebic, whose fizzing shot was blocked. The resulting corner saw Rebic return the favour with a near-post flick on met by a diving Mandzukic.Etebo was wrong-footed and bundled into his own net.Nigeria responded well, with Arsenal forward Alex Iwobi’s shot from a cleared free kick blocked on 45 minutes and his Premier League colleague Victor Moses shooting wide from 30 yards on the stroke of half time.The Super Eagles had the best of the start of the second period, forcing Croatia to bat away three corners in succession, before Moses again snatched a shot wide of Danjiel Subasic’s left upright.© AFPCroatia’s defender Domagoj Vida (R) fights for the ball with Nigeria’s forward Kelechi Iheanacho during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group D football match at the Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad on June 16, 2018© AFP Attila KISBENEDEKBut just as Nigeria showed some signs of life, William Ekong held down Mandzukic from a cross in the area and referee Sandro did not hesitate to point to the spot.Modric’s gilded right foot guided it to Uzoho’s right side.The Real Madrid maestro was not at his best for much of the night, but in truth he did not need to be as Nigeria looked ponderous on the ball and crucially short of big-game experience.Despite fears pre-match, there was no reports of any racist chanting from among the near-capacity crowd.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Croatia’s midfielder Luka Modric (L) celebrates scoring a penalty with his teammate forward Ante Rebic during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group D football match at the Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad on June 16, 2018© AFP Patrick HERTZOGKALININGRAD, Russia, June 16 – Croatia’s midfielder Luka Modric (L) celebrates scoring a penalty with his teammate forward Ante Rebic during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group D football match at the Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad on June 16, 2018In Russia’s sleepy European exclave of Kaliningrad — perhaps best known for its nuclear missile sites — the much-hyped youngsters of Nigeria struggled to ignite against Croatia’s midfield technicians.last_img read more

Wales full back: Current crop of players should be qualifying for major tournaments

first_imgWales left back Neil Taylor believes the calibre of players in the current national team means they should be qualifying for major international competitions.Chris Coleman’s men are on course to qualify for their first major tournament since 1958 after a 3-0 victory in Israel on Saturday helped them top their qualifying group for Euro 2016 after five games.The current crop is being described as a golden generation, and the Swansea full back insists they can put past disappointments behind them by progressing out of a tough Group B.“We should be qualifying with the players we’ve got. We have to try and produce this time, we’ve put ourselves in a good position so far,” said Taylor.Gareth Bale scored twice in the victory in Saturday’s victory in Haifa, including a stunning free kick, and Taylor has acknowledged a drive in the Real Madrid star to take Wales to the finals in France next summer.The 26-year-old said: “A player of his calibre, and we’ve got plenty at that level, wants to experience a major tournament.“He is producing every time he plays for us, he almost feels like the onus is on him and there is a real freedom when he plays. Players like him strike fear into opposition teams.”Taylor pointed to Bale’s match-winning display as testament to his ‘world class’ ability despite recent criticism for some of his performances for Madrid, and he can’t see the winger leaving the Spanish capital any time soon.“He is without doubt world class and people have seen that this weekend. He’s looked his normal self but it is massive pressure out there. The best players in the world, they all get it, they almost want perfect football,” said Taylor.“If you are at Real Madrid, where would you really want to go from there? He’s gone there and won trophies so I can’t see why he would want to leave.”last_img read more