Etebo’s own goal, Modric’s penalty kill off Super Eagles in their World Cup 2018 opener
An Etebo own goal and a penalty by Modric was enough to kill off the Super Eagles.
On the street, it was a hit, Nike stores in the United Kingdom selling out the pieces just two hours after it was unveiled.
It was now cool to support the Super Eagles or to be associated with them.
All over social media, photos of Caucasians in the new kit became a dime a dozen, celebrities all over the world posed in the strips in social media posts even hip-hop mogul Diddy gave the Super Eagles a shout-out on his social media pages.
After all the hype, it was down to the real job in Kaliningrad on Saturday night and all eyes were on the Super Eagles.
They didn’t have a bad start, playing the ball around nicely as they tried to break a very organised Croatia team.
Super Eagles boss Gernot Rohr went with a 4-3-3 formation with Oghenekaro Etebo joining Wilfred Ndidi and Mikel John Obi in midfield while Alex Iwobi and Victor Moses flanked Odion Ighalo.
The Croatians had some of the biggest names in world football in their team. A starting XI that had the likes of Luka Modric, Mario Mandžukić, Ivan Rakitić, even Real Madrid’s Mateo Kovačić started from the bench.
The Super Eagles didn’t appear fazed at all. Holding the ball nicely and passing it around albeit without posing much danger.
In the early minutes, Nigeria got a couple of free kicks which the Croatians handled very well. In the 11th minute, Mikel went on a rare attack, beating his man in the near corner but his cross couldn't get Ighalo.
In the 13th minute, Croatia got their first chance, Ivan Perisic shooting from just outside Nigeria’s area but Francis Uzoho was not troubled at all.
In the 15th minute, Andrej Kramarić tried his luck from a distance but his effort went over the bar.
The Croatians grew into the game, getting much of the ball and swinging crosses from the wings which troubled the Super Eagles.
In the 31st minute, they got their goal from a set piece. Rebic got his head on a Modric corner and Mandzukic nudged it on again with a diving header which deflected off Etebo for a goal.
Some might say it didn't deserve, but that’s how the Croatians are built, to take anything from nothing.
From then on, they were on top, passing the ball around with Modric at the centre and really threatening.
Kramaric managed to get his head on a deep cross from Rakitic but the effort just went over.
With no changes in halftime, the Super Eagles started the second half on the front feet, like they have done in their two preview games.
Iwobi cutting into midfield, his comfort zone to trouble Croatia with his passes. The Super Eagles also got a couple of corner kicks which they failed again to capitalise on.
In the 51st minute, Iwobi created some space in Croatia’s box with his quick feet but his shot was deflected by a defender.
Iwobi was really getting on the game, cutting into the middle to put more bodies in Croatia’s box.
Ighalo had been isolated all game but it was a shock when Rohr took out Iwobi for his first substitution.
On came Ahmed Musa to trouble the Croatians with his pace but the Europeans were well organised. Closing spaces and allowing the Super Eagles little time on the ball.
In the 70th minute, the referee gave a penalty to Croatia. Punishing William Troost-Ekong for wrapping his hands around Mandzukic during a corner.
Modric stepped up to drill a low ball into the left corner, sending Uzoho the wrong way, killing the game and Nigeria.
The Super Eagles did get some chances after that. Kelechi Iheanacho, another substitute, sending a low cross into the box which caused some troubles while Balogun rose to head a ball which was very easy for Croatia's goalkeeper.