Early warning signs seem to suggest that it was all about the outfits as far as the Super Eagles are concerned. Nigeria succumbed to a 2- 0 defeat to Croatia in their opening Group D match in Kaliningrad, Russia.
It was really one of the most unentertaining matches so far in the tournament with the first shot on target coming in the 59th minute courtesy of Nigeria’s Odion Ighalo glanced header, which Subasic saved comfortably. There was a goal before then, a 32nd-minute own goal turned in by Etebo Oghenekaro after a corner from Luka Modric was met by Mandzukic, touching Ante Rebic before finding the unfortunate Etebo. Croatia sealed their first win in a World Cup opener since 1998, nineteen minutes from time as Modric converted from the penalty spot. The penalty by the Croatian captain was actually a consequence of Nigeria’s Troost-Ekong illegally wrestling Mandzukic when a corner was being taken.
In all fairness, two things stood out from Nigeria’s performance: a lack of desire and a defined game-plan. They never really did anything to disturb an organized Croatian side that dominated possession the entire match without creating any clear-cut chances. Whenever Croatia got the ball, Nigeria would retreat without applying any form of pressure and the attacking threat was never present. The consensus seemed to just go with the wave when going forward hoping something will happen. One of the star-men expected to orchestrate magical moments, Victor Moses didn’t stay on his feet, looking to fall from the slightest or no touches at all from the opposition.
Now the task to reach the knockout stages for the Super Eagles seems to be an uphill battle as they will have to get points out of matches against Iceland and Argentina, who played to a thoroughly entertaining 1-1 draw with the highlight of the match being Lionel Messi getting his penalty saved by Halldorsson. The Super Eagles will face Iceland on Friday the 22nd of June and should spend the time in between games formulating a more effective game plan and add a bit of love to their performances.
They actually possess the quality to go far in this tournament and now is the time to put it work and repay the support from millions of across the continent and seas shores.