Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic has admitted that playing against Nigeria and other teams in Group D at the Russia 2018 World Cup will be difficult, reports Completesportsnigeria.com.
Croatia are drawn alongside Nigeria, Argentina and Iceland.
Rakitic, whose Croatia face the Super Eagles on Saturday in their opening group game in Kalinigrad, also labelled his Barcelona teammate and Argentina captain Lionel Messi the best in the world.
Messi, 30, is still yet to win any senior laurel with his country, with the pressure again on him to deliver in Russia having led the La Albiceleste to the final in 2014.
“We measure ourselves against the best and to have the opportunity to face the best is brilliant. We know that it’s going to be difficult but so will the games against Nigeria and Iceland,” Rakitic told Marca.
“We realise that it’s just special to go up against Leo but he also knows that we all want to play well against him.
“Surely he deserves to win it for who he is. Football isn’t tennis: you can’t put Messi under pressure by saying he alone has to win the World Cup.
“He does deserve it but there are 32 countries with the same dream. If he wins it at the end, we will all be happy for him.
“However, his story is not going to change if he wins it or not.
“If you are the best, you are it independently of whether you win one or 50,000 titles. One World Cup will not change what Leo Messi means to football.”
Messi and Rakitic are set to do battle on June 21, with Argentina favourites to top the group and the Croatian adds that it will be difficult to stop the Argentine captain.
“In football, no-one has found the formula as how to stop Messi. Not [Croatia coach Zlatko] Dalic, not me, no-one can. What we’ve got to do is enjoy him,” he said.