Our win puts pressure on Argentina, Modric says
Moscow: Croatia midfielder Luka Modric feels his team’s 2-0 triumph over Nigeria puts more pressure on Group D favourites Argentina.
“They (Argentina) have quality but this win will boost our confidence and I hope we can play well against them,” Modric told reporters after the game.
Modric scored from the spot in the second half during the match on Saturday to ensure the three points after Croatia went ahead through a first-half own goal by Nigeria midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo.
Croatia are now top of the group ahead of Iceland and Argentina, who drew 1-1 draw earlier in the day.
“It is going to be a difficult match. Maybe against the favourites in our group ... but they will have to play for a win because of the scoreline today (Saturday) that they never expected.”
Croatia take on Lionel Messi’s Argentina on Thursday in Nizhny Novgorod.
Messi’s penalty was saved by Iceland goalkeeper and Modric was asked if he was nervous too before his own take.
“I wasn’t (nervous). I was focused on scoring. Thank God that I scored,” he said. “Nothing more to say about that really.”
Meanwhile, Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic made light of the fact that both the team’s scoring opportunities resulted from setpieces.
“A win is a win. Corners and penalties are part of football,” he said. “What is important is that you score. There was luck there but we earned it. We want to be more attacking but we are not going to split hairs about how we scored.
“There’s still much work to be done to emerge from the group but these three points are extremely important. We can’t let our guard down. Nothing is over. We have to now think of Argentina.”
Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr admitted his young team had been “naive” in their loss to Croatia, continuing a dismal recent record at World Cups.
“We are disappointed but we must recognise Croatia were better tonight and my young players made some mistakes,” Rohr told reporters after the game in Russia’s European exclave of Kaliningrad.
There is a sense of now-or-never for the Balkans nation at this tournament and Modric said his side would lift their game when they meet Lionel Messi’s Argentina in their next match.
Croatia 2 Nigeria 0