This will be the last major tournament for some of Croatia’s stars but they come into this World Cup with some hope as they possess plenty of top quality talent in Rakitic, Modric, Mandzukic and Perisic to challenge the best in the competition.
Veteran defender Corluka could start but he has struggled with an Achilles injury throughout the season, and he is the only minor injury concern for this opening match as they have a fully fit squad otherwise.
They finished third in the 1998 World Cup – 20 years ago – and while that may be beyond them here, they will look to improve on their last two efforts in the World Cup which has seen them eliminated in the group stages.
Predicted line-up (4-2-3-1):
Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic
Mandzukic, Modric, Perisic
Nigeria surprised many by romping through a difficult qualifying group to reach the World Cup but they are up against it in this group and a negative result in this opening match could knock their fragile confidence.
Coach Gernot Rohr has an exciting but inexperienced squad at his disposal and will rely on a core group of players from the Premier League across the midfield and forward line, but their defence looks to be their weakest link.
Iheanacho will compete with Musa and Ighalo for a starting place, but the likes of Iwobi, Moses and Ndidi will all be key to their hopes, and Rohr will need his stars to really find some form and improve on some poor displays in the build-up to the tournament.
Predicted line-up (4-3-3):
Abdullahi, Troost-Ekong, Echiejile, Balogun
Mikel, Onazi, Ndidi
Moses, Ighalo, Iwobi
Nigeria have some familiar names in their squad with some Premier League talent in their ranks, but they meet an extremely talented and experienced Croatian side. Their midfield looks solid but they will need their forwards to really produce some magic to give them any chance of getting out of this group. The strength in the Croat midfield should see them control this game, and they should be able to unlock the Nigerian defence with their quality and get off to a positive start with an opening win.
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