ANALYSIS: Eagles better on record against Croatia
As the Group D opener gets closer, a double check has shown that the Super Eagles of Nigeria will be going into that match against Croatia with a high quality of confidence if the books are anything to go by.
What will ginger the west African giants is the fact that every time Nigeria faced European opposition in their opening FIFA World Cup match, they have emerged victorious.
A most memorable pairing was that thumping goal from Sunday Oliseh which gave them a famous first-up victory over Spain at France 1998.
Bulgaria got a massive 3-0 beating in 1994. In the 21st minute, Rashidi Yekini scored from an assist provided by Finidi George. In the 43rd minute it became 2-0 courtesy of Daniel Amokachi with the assist coming from Rashidi Yekini while the 3rd goal came in the 55th minute from Emmanuel Amunike with the assist from Finidi George.
The group consisted of Argentina, Greece, Nigeria and Bulgaria. Nigeria won the group on goal difference, Bulgaria finished second and Argentina qualified as one of the best third-placed teams (Bulgaria defeated Argentina in the group stage, thus their higher rank). Bulgaria and Argentina had previously met before in the group stage, in 1962; neither team advanced into the knockout stage. Bulgaria and Argentina had also met in 1986, both teams advanced to the knockout stage.
Incidentally, the last time Nigeria faced a European opposition in the group stage of the FIFA World Cup was in the 2014 edition which ended in a 1-0 victory for the Super Eagles against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
On paper, with these facts, the Croatians need to work extra to break the Nigerian-European jinx. A victory for the Nigerians will re-establish the historical facts. A victory for the Croatians will lay a new historical fact.
What would have been a snag and fear factor was that, the last time Croatia played an Africa opponent at the World Cup they won by 4-0 at the 2014 edition where they white-washed Cameroun.
In that match, Mandzukic got two goals. He is in line to start against the Super Eagles on Saturday.(Gongnews)