02:30 am: Wrapping up...
Well, to be honest, it was a dire end to what was otherwise an exciting day of action at the World Cup. Three good matches out of four is not bad though, right? No complaints here. To wrap up, this is how the Group D standings look as of now. Croatia one win away from sealing their progress, Nigerian hopes dashed.
FULL-TIME, CROATIA 2-0 NIGERIA: For the first time since their remarkable 3rd place finish in 1998, Croatia win their opening game at the World Cup – good signs, eh? They go top of the group and are mighty comfortably placed to qualify from this group. Less said about the Nigerian performance, the better.
Into extra-time: Croatia 2-0 Nigeria
Almost 3-0 there for Crotia but the young Nigerian GK makes a good save. Into the final few seconds now.
88th min: John Obi Mikel is taken off for Simeon Nwankwo, who looks like Nigeria’s Peter Crouch.
87th min: Oh, big chance for Nigeria! It falls in the box for not one, not two but three players. All three fluff their lines, with Moses applying the finishing touch to the said fluffing.
After 83 mins, Croatia 2-0 Nigeria
Mandzukic taken off with the match wrapped up pretty much. Replaced by Pjaca.
How about this for a stat, eh?
After 83 mins, Croatia 2-0 Nigeria
A chance for Nigeria as Iheanacho and Musa combine down the left, Musa is tackled before he could get his shot away.
After 80 mins, Croatia 2-0 Nigeria
The game has slowed down to crawling pace once again after that Modric penalty. Mateo Kovacic comes on for Ante Rebic.
After 77 mins, Croatia 2-0 Nigeria
Change for Nigeria a little while back: IHEANACHO REPLACES IGHALO
After 75 mins, Croatia 2-0 Nigeria
Croatia continue to pour forward now and one must fear for this young Nigerian side now. They could come apart at the end here should Croatia keep the foot on the pedal.
71st minute: GOAL, CROATIA! Cool as you like, from Luka Modric. Not been a good day for penalty-takers but Modric makes no mistake. This game should be in the bag for the Croats now.
70th minute: PENALTY! Oh wow, it’s a Judo move by Ekong on Mandzukic inside the box – has his arms all over the striker. Penalty given and perhaps rightly so. Too often these challenges of a corner go unpunished.
After 67 mins, Croatia 1-0 Nigeria
A couple of set-piece chances wasted by Croatia. There’s a funny moment when Rebic and Vrsjalko clash with each other and lose the ball. Nigeria have a chance at the other end when Obi Mikel frees Moses through the right channel, the Chelsea man takes a tumble inside the box but the ref says nothing doing.
62nd min: Nigeria make a change, Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi replaced by the pacy Ahmed Musa.
60th min: First change of the night, BROZOVIĆ replaces KRAMARIĆ
59th minute: A shot on target! Nigeria work it well down the middle and spread play wide to the left, a cross to Ighalo is glanced towards goal but straight at the keeper. Better from Nigeria though.
After 56 mins, Croatia 1-0 Nigeria
Another corner for Nigeria, another ordinary delivery by Moses . Chance for Croatia as Rakitic sets up Perisic on the left flank, whose first-time cross is side-footed over the goal by Rebic. The offside flag was up but it was a well-worked opening for the Croats.
After 52 mins, Croatia 1-0 Nigeria
Bit more tempo to this game already with chances at either end. Moses is freed down the right by an excellent cross-field pass, he dribbles and shoots wide. Rakitic has a go from distance at the other end, goes over. Nigeria then have a free kick from which Iwobi finds himself in a good position in the box, Croatia block the shot.
48th min: Second half underway... an early corner for Nigeria, followed by another, followed by another. Third time lucky for Moses and Co? No, it’s cleared out.
Some numbers from the first half.
01:30 am: Second half soon to begin. Truth be told this has been far from a classic so far, closer to a snooze-fest.
CROATIA LEAD 1-0 AT HALF-TIME: It hasn’t been the most exhilarating 45 minutes of football, certainly not by the standards set at Russia so far this year. But Croatia won’t have any complaints about that. They have the lead and will now look to consolidate their position. Back shortly for the second half.
HALF TIME: Croatia 1-0 Nigeria:
CHANCE! A rebound from inside the box falls to an onrushing Iwobi who unleashes a powerful strike at goal, blocked by the wall of Croatian defenders though. Moses then sends a shot high and over.
And with that we have the whistle for half-time...
After 43 mins, Croatia 1-0 Nigeria
Almost time for the half to end here, and Croatia are consolidating their position on the game. Mandzukic more involved now, sets up right back Vrsaljko nicely for a Nacho-esque shot at goal from Spain - Portugal, but it goes wide. Nigeria trying to keep possession now.
After 39 mins, Croatia 1-0 Nigeria
CHANCE, CROATIA! That goal seems to have helped Croatia find their footing. Rakitic with a lovely cross from the left channel, Kramaric’s header goes just over. The Croats dominating possession now, more meaningfully than they did early on.
32nd minute: CROATIA LEAD, OWN GOAL!
The pressure (building bit by bit) pays off! Modric with the corner, Rebic with the flick on at the near post, Mandzukic with a diving header that was heading wide, but Etebo deflects into his own net with his feet! Unlucky for Nigeria... but it was coming.
After 32 mins Croatia 0-0 Nigeria
Mandzukic with a clever lay off with his chest for Rebic and his shot results in a corner for the Croats..
After 28 mins, Croatia 0-0 Nigeria
Both teams playing decently enough in the build-up but the final ball is lacking. Croatia do look the more threatening side especially when the cross first-time from the flanks – the Nigerian defence doesn’t look to comfortable dealing with those crosses.
After 22 mins, Croatia 0-0 Nigeria
Free kick from a good position on the right flank for Croatia, where they attempt a training ground routine, trying to catch the Nigerian defence off guard – the elaborate ploy is foiled by the 19-year-old keeper Uzoho. (Yep! 19...)
Nigeria work a corner down the other end and there is a bit of a pin-ball deal going on in the box, ending with a wild long range effort by a Nigerian player that goes well wide.
Admittedly, it’s all a bit... err... blah right now.
After 17 mins, Croatia 0-0 Nigeria
Couple of strikes at goal from outside the D by Croatia, both off target but the first one by Perisic was quite close – a well-struck first time effort that went over the bar. Kramaric’s effort was well wide.
A corner now from Modric, which doesn’t clear the first line of defence.
After 12 mins, Croatia 0-0 Nigeria
No great tempo this game yet, neither side able to dominate possession – plenty of niggling fouls in the midfield... and just as we say that Nigeria break down the left and Obi Mikel wins possession from Modric, sends a cross over to Ighalo but it’s a safe catch for the goalkeeper.
After 6 mins, Croatia 0-0 Nigeria
Croatia have settled down and are controlling the tempo here. Attacking primarily through the left channel through Kramaric and Perisic.
After 2 mins, Croatia 0-0 Nigeria
Nigeria start on the front foot with Lovren’s foul on Ighalo resulting in a free kick. Moses can’t get his delivery quite right. Modric starts a break for Croatia, comes to nothing.
12:29 am: National anthems done, teams exchanged.. we are all set for kick-off. Let the fun begin!
12:23 am: We are just a few minutes away from kickoff. If you need something to wake yourself up (other than all the football of course) check this out.
12:15 am: History was made earlier today in the World Cup when VAR was used to award FRANCE a penalty.
It’s fair to say not everyone is a fan of the technology.
Read more here.
12:10 am: The first match of the day was France taking on Australia and if you were looking for signs of why they are one of the favourites, they were not every evident.
Ashish Magotra weighs in:
12:05 am: Some familiar names in action in this match for those of you who follow European club football.
12:00 am: And the clock strikes midnight! Super Sunday begins right now for us, doesn’t it?
It’s still Saturday in Russia and that means Nigerian stirker Odion Ighalo will make his World Cup debut on his birthday, as he turns 29
11:57 pm: If you are not following this account on Twitter, you are missing out on plenty of Icelandic humour.
11:50 pm: The venue for this match is Kaliningrad.
And a confirmation of the lineups – that Croatia midfield looks stunning on paper with Modric, Rakitic, Perisic. Can Nigeria pull off an upset here?
11:42 pm: Here are some stats, looking ahead to the game. Remember Argentina drew against Iceland, so it’s a big opportunity for Croatia (and Nigeria for that matter) to record a win and go top of the table. A draw would throw this group wide open.
11:38 pm: Croatia’s starting lineup
11:35 pm: Nigeria’s starting lineup.
11:30 pm: Another supremely entertaining game comes to an end as Peru, inexplicably, end up losing against Denmark after creating chance after chance after chance.
11:15 pm: Hello all and welcome to the live blog of the fourth and final game of a jam-packed Saturday at Russia 2018. Croatia take on Nigeria in the second match in Group D after three entertaining fixtures preceding this. The quality might not have been as high as we had anticipated but plenty of drama – the kind only the football World Cup can produce on such a regular basis.