As it happened: A goal either side of half-time sees Croatia top Group D after Nigeria triumph

As it happened: A goal either side of half-time sees Croatia top Group D after Nigeria triumph
Croatia
2 0
Nigeria
Croatia: Subasic; Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic; Rakitić, Modric; Perisic, Mandzukic, Rebic; Kramaric
Nigeria: Francis; Idowu, Ekong, Balogun, Shehu; Ndidi, Etebo; Iwobi, Obi Mikel, Moses; Ighalo
SCORE: 1-0, min. 32, Etebo 'OG. 2-0, min.71, Modric PEN.
REFEREE: Sandro Meira Ricci (BRA), Booked Troost-Ekong (min.71), Rakitic (min.30)
INCIDENTS: World Cup 2018 Group D game between Croatia and Nigeria. The match has been played at the Kalinigrad Stadium, Russia.

FT: It has been a pleasure to have you keep up-to-date with this live text commentary. This has been Ryan White and I hope you make sure to continue following VAVEL's coverage of the World Cup over the next month.

FT: Croatia top Group D thanks to that result after Argentina were held to a 1-1 draw to Iceland earlier in the day.

FT: This game saw very little opportunities at goal up until the break, but it sprung into life in the second-half as Croatia were aiming to double their advantage, meanwhile Nigeria were vying to get an equaliser, which, to much their frustration, never came.

FT: A very underwhelming performance by Nigeria sees Croatia rally the three points courtesy of a first-half own goal and a penalty-spot finish from Luka Modric in the 71st minute.

FT: Croatia 2-0 Nigeria. 

90+2: Croatia have the opportunity to make it 3-0! Mateo Kovacic is through one-on-one and could have squared the ball to Ivan Perisic, but shoots straight at the 'keeper.

88: A substitution for Nigeria; John Obi Mikel comes off in place of forward Simeon Nwankwo.

86: Croatia's final substitution of the night as Mario Mandzukic, winner of the penalty, makes way for Marko Pjaca of Juventus.

78: It's fair to say this match has dramatically slowed down with that second goal from Croatia. Nigeria looking out of air and are seemingly accepting defeat.

71: Luka Modric very calmly steps up to the plate, sending the Nigeria goalkeeper the wrong way and slots the ball into the bottom left corner.

71: Goal for Croatia! 2-0!

70: Troost-Ekong had his hands all over Mario Mandzukic and the referee very rightly points to the spot.

70: Penalty to Croatia!

66: There were very brief calls from the Nigerian fans for a penalty as Victor Moses goes down in the box but the referee is having none of it.

58: Nearly an hour gone and this World Cup game is yet to have a shot on target.....

55: Perisic sends in an early cross into the box, Ante Rebić gets on the end of it but the ball sails over the bar. Many will feel he has to do better there! 

54: A few frightening moments for the leaders as Nigeria continue to knock on the door for that equaliser, but nothing comes of the Super Eagles' attack.

50: Croatia have their first attempt of the second-half. Ivan Rakitic has an effort from the edge of the area but it goes safely over the bar.

49: Victor Moses dribbles with the ball into the box, has a shot at goal with his left foot but misses the target.

48: Nigeria having a couple of successive corners here, yet to have any major threat at goal.

46: Croatia get the second-half underway for us.

The teams are out for the second-half.....

As it stands, Croatia are topping Group D with that first-half goal. A long way to go until full-time and Nigeria are expected to put up a fight after the interval.

HT: Croatia 1-0 Nigeria. Zlatko Dalić's Croatia side started the game off fairly slowly but progressively made their way into it and earned their goal via an opposing player, courtesy of Nigeria's Oghenekaro Etebo who will feel very unfortunate that his best efforts to defend that corner ended with the ball going past his own goalkeeper.

HT: The first-half ends with two minutes of additional time. 

45: Nigeria's Victor Moses wins a free-kick on the right-hand side, ready to send one into the crowded area. The ball ends at Alex Iwobi's feet; the Arsenal man strikes but a Croatia defender gets a block in.

39: Rakitic sends a ball into the box and Kramaric gets his head to it, his chance loops over to land on the roof of the net. Croatia suddenly looking a lot stronger since that opening goal.

32: The ball is sent in from the near side and there's a slight moment of confusion before Etebo turns it into his own net at the far-post as Croatia gain the lead.

32: Goal for Croatia! 1-0!

32: As I write that, Croatia have an effort at goal which is deflected for a corner....

30: A very quiet period of football at the moment. 

22: An intense period of possession from Nigeria inside the attacking box before Oghenekaro Etebo tries his luck on the volley from outside the area, which goes miles wide of the right-hand post.

19: Croatia have a free-kick 30 yards out; Nigeria's teenage goalkeeper Francis Uzoho catches the ball at the far post.

16: Midfielder Andrej Kramarić has the ball at this feet about 25 yards from goal, decides to have a shot but sends it wide of the left post.

14: Perisic receives the ball inside the box for Croatia, lays it off to Mandzukic but the striker can only send his effort inches above the left hand side of the bar.

12: John Obi Mikel beats the Croatian defender with strength, sends in a cross but Danijel Subasic catches without struggle.

11: Victor Moses paces down the right to try get on a long ball, however, can't quite make it as Croatia win a goal-kick.

9: Croatia earn themselves a corner on the far side, it's sent in but Nigeria defend with ease before Rakitic commits a foul.

5: Not much to report on in the early stages of this game other than a couple of fouls going either way. Nigeria have a free-kick just inside their half....

1: Ighalo earns an early free-kick for the Nigerians. Victor Moses floats it in but Croatia defend comfortably.

1: Nigeria get us underway!

Here are the national anthems. 

Just over ten minutes now until kick-off here in Kalinigrad....

The Nigerians have a less than inspiring record against European nations in recent times; just one triumph in six attempts, with that coming against Bosnia in 2014.

Croatia and Nigeria have incidentally never met, either in an international friendly or competitive game. Whilst the dedicated 'home' outfit, Croatia, have only ever met African opposition on one previous occasion in a World Cup - coming four years ago in Brazil when they overcame Cameroon 4-0.

As the players begin to make their way into the dressing rooms, let's get some statistics between these two nations.....

Meanwhile, Nigeria boss Gernot Rohr, born in Germany, is confident in his group of players ahead of this game; "I love this group because we know how to rise to the occasion together. Nigeria will be ready for Croatia." (BBC)

Croatia attacker Nikola Kalinić was speaking to the media prior to this evening's encounter against Nigeria; "The most important thing now are those three points. We certainly have very high quality offensive players and we shouldn't be afraid. It's important that we play well and create opportunities for our attackers." (BBC)

Croatia and Nigeria meet in Kalinigrad, with the other game of Group D ending 1-1 earlier today between Argentina and Iceland.

Juventus forward Mario Mandzukic unsurprisingly is included in  the Croatia starting line-up, alongside his Serie A counterpart Ivan Perišić. As for Nigeria, Odion Ighalo leads the line with John Obi Mikel behind him. 

Nigeria: Francis; Idowu, Ekong, Balogun, Shehu; Ndidi, Etebo; Iwobi, Obi Mikel, Moses; Ighalo

Croatia: Subasic; Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic; Rakitić, Modric; Perisic, Mandzukic, Rebic; Kramaric

The team news is out for this evening's World Cup fixture between Croatia v Nigeria!

Team news to come out within the next 20 minutes or so....

The game this evening sees the two teams clash competitively for the first time ever. Which side are you backing to claim victory? To get involved in the debate over on Twitter, follow us @VAVEL and make sure you stay tuned with VAVEL UK all evening. Team news will be coming an hour before kick-off…

Both teams will definitely be aiming to better their performances at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Croatia did not manage to get out of their group in a disappointing campaign. However, Nigeria did manage to just advance with only four points but did eventually fall to a defeat to France as Paul Pogba netted a late strike to condemn the Super Eagles to elimination. They impressed, though, as they gave finalists Argentina a scare in a tight 3-2 loss.

Elsewhere, Nigeria also had to progress through two rounds of qualification to get to Russia in their sixth World Cup finals appeatance. They booked an automatic place with a 2-0 aggregate defeat of Swaziland, before topping Group B, ousting Zambia, Cameroon and Algeria in the process.

In relation to qualification, both sides had relatively differing campaigns. It took a playoff clash with Greece for Zlatko Dalić’s Croatia to book their ticket to Russia. A 4-1 victory in the first leg was enough to see them qualify for their fifth World Cup as an independent country.

The match could see plenty of well-known stars clash despite arguably the best player in the world, Lionel Messi, up against Iceland. Fans of the Premier League will definitely know the likes of former Chelsea man John Obi Mikel and Leicester City trio Kelechi Iheanacho, Wilfred N’didi and Ahmed Musa. Victor Moses and Alex Iwobi also provide plenty of pace on the wings. Meanwhile, Croatia are able to boast habitual winners Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić, Mateo Kovacić and Mario Mandzukić, amongst others.

Coming into the tournament in Russia, neither side have ever managed to go all the way and lift the trophy. Croatia’s best finish was in the semi-finals in 1998, whilst Nigeria have never managed to reach the quarter-finals.

It could be fair to suggest that this game already looks key as both sides set their sights on qualification to the last-16. Argentina sit in waiting for both sides later on in the group stage, and are obvious favourites to claim top spot, so this clash will surely be crucial in the battle for second.

The game is set to get underway at 8PM BST so be sure to stay with us all evening for the build-up, commentary, goals, drama, reaction and analysis. What a lucky lot you are!

Good evening, and welcome to VAVEL UK’s live coverage of Croatia vs Nigeria at the 2018 World Cup in Kaliningrad. My name is Daniel Orme and I will be taking you through all of the pre-match build up ahead of the second game in Group D. Elsewhere, Ryan White will be here to give you all the commentary that you need as both teams get their campaign underway.