By Johnny Edward: Former Croatia midfielder Ognjen Vukojević believes a win for his country against Nigeria in their opening group D match at the 2018 World Cup in Russia will boost their chances of qualifying for the second round of the tournament.
Croatia will take on Nigeria at the Kalingrad Stadium in Kalingrad, Russia on June 16 before facing two-time champion, Argentina on 21 June and debutants Iceland five days later in their remaining two group games.
Vukojević made 55 appearance and scored four goals for Croatia until he retired after the 2014 World in Brazil.
“The first match with Nigeria, is crucial, we need to win that game and the rest will be easy. I believe in Croatia and I believe we can make success in Russia,” Vukojević told glas-slavonije.hr.
“Croatia have a great generation of mature players in the team now and probably this is the last chance for these great players playing in big clubs to make an impact at the world stage.”
Real Madrid’s Mateo Kovačić, Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren, Juventus’ Mario Mandžukić, Real Madrid’s Luka Modrić, Inter Milan’s Ivan Perišić and Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitić are some of the Croatia players playing for top clubs in Europe.
“It should be step by step, but I think we have a big team to beat Nigeria with little details in our favour,” Vukojevic added.
“We now know their strengths but must exploit their weaknesses.”
Croatia are going for their fifth appearance at the FIFA World Cup having managed to qualify from the group twice in 1998 and 2014, while at in Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006 they failed to qualify from the group stages.