Nigeria will try to put a run of indifferent form and controversy behind them when they step onto the pitch at the Kaliningrad Stadium.
The Super Eagles come into their tournament opener having failed to win in their last four international friendlies and dogged by scandal with coach Gernot Rohr accusing some reporters of unethical behaviour and coming up with lies in the build-up to the World Cup.
Nigeria are the lowest-ranked team in the group at 48 but have displayed the ability to punch above their weight as they did at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil when they reached the round of 16.
“I love this group because we know how to rise to the occasion together,” said Rohr, on the Nigerian Football Federation website. “Nigeria will be ready for Croatia.” In contrast, Croatia, a team stacked with quality, have often failed to live up to expectations.
Talent has never been quite enough for under-achieving Croatia, who have failed to advance past the group stage since their debut as an independent country at the 1998 World Cup in France, where they finished third.
They could not escape the group stage four years ago in Brazil and failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
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