Captain Luca Modric believes Croatia’s opening 2-0 World Cup win over Nigeria can give them “wings” as his side prepares to next face Argentina.
With Iceland having held Group D favourites Argentina to a surprise 1-1 draw earlier on Saturday – as star man Lionel Messi saw a penalty saved – Croatia took full advantage with a composed display at the Kaliningrad Stadium.
An own goal from Stoke-bound Oghenekaro Etebo broke the deadlock just after the half-hour mark, with a penalty from Modric with 20 minutes left securing three points for Zlatko Dalic’s men.
Croatia moved two points clear at the top of Group D ahead of the showdown against Argentina in Nizhny Novgorod on June 21, where another victory should be enough to secure a place in the knockout stage.
“We were just focused on our game and it was an important win which will boost our confidence for the forthcoming matches. This will lift us to continue our journey,” Real Madrid midfielder Modric said at a post-match press conference.
“I believe that on the wings of this win we will up our game and continue our journey in the way that we planned before coming here.”
Modric, though, accepts the test against Jorge Sampaoli’s side will be a step up.
“Argentina is going to be a very difficult match against maybe the favourites in the group,” Modric said.
“But this win will boost our confidence and as we go along, we will raise our game – but to get three points against them will be tough.”
Croatia coach Dalic will not underestimate the challenge now ahead of his side.
“Argentina will be a different and difficult match and we have to be well prepared,” Dalic said at the press conference, broadcast via FIFA TV on YouTube.
“Three more points would help us to progress and Argentina could be on their way home, but we have to focus on ourselves.”
The Super Eagles produced a better showing at the start of the second half, before Croatia put the match beyond them with another goal from the penalty spot after Mario Mandzukic was man-handled by Bursaspor defender William Troost-Ekong at a corner.
Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr is confident his squad can regroup as they now turn attentions to tackling Iceland in Volgograd.
“We are really disappointed we lost this game. Croatia were the better team, but we could have come back into it in the second half when we started very well before the penalty against us,” the German said.
“There were also so many fouls against us in the other box where it could have also been a penalty given for us, but we have to accept this defeat.
“We are a young team, we are learning and I hope in the next game against Iceland we will do much better. All is possible still.”