Croatian defender VEDRAN Corluka


Duro Ikhazuagbe

Croatia and Locomotive Moscow defender, Vedran Corluka, has hinted that his country is targeting victory against Nigeria when both countries open their Group D campaign at the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.

After Croatia’s fairytale run at its World Cup debut in France in 1998 with a semi final finish, the Eastern European nation has been unable to repeat the feat in their last two appearances at the Mundial. They have not been able to advance from the group phase.

Now, Corluka and his compatriots are looking forward to riding back to relevant starting with victory against Nigeria on June 16 in Kaliningrad.

The former Manchester City and Tottenham defender who injury has dimmed his trip to Russia this summer however believes the three-time African champions won’t come cheap.

“I would like to see our team pay attention to Nigeria because they are the first opponent in Russia, and it will be tough against the tricky team from Africa,” Corluka told during the week.

“Getting past Nigeria will be the toughest, but a win over Nigeria can give us a big boost before other games against Argentina and Iceland.

“Hopefully, Argentina can start well with a win and we can take it from there.

“We (Croatia) have a good and strong team for sure, and there are talents. We always say this before every major tournament, but in fact it does not always work out, so I hope that we will fulfill the task in Russia,” concludes Corluka on a positive now.

After the first match with the Super Eagles, the Croatians have another mountain to climb as they confront Argentina in their second game of Group D. They are to cap their group stage matches against Iceland.

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) last week revealed an ambitious 2018 FIFA World Cup programme for Eagles with the sole aim of getting the team to surpass Nigeria’s best performance of second round feats.

Eagles Franco-German gaffer, Gernot Rohr, stressed that it was not impossible for the team to go all out to play in the final. He however cautioned Nigerians about blind optimism.

The venues and dates for six pre-World Cup friendly matches, kit launch, camping programmes and the team base camp, sponsors’ event and how the team will travel during the World Cup finals proper were unveiled in that Lagos event.

Eagles are to play Poland, Serbia, Democratic Republic of Congo, England, Czech Republic and Chile on the way to the World Cup finals in Russia.

The team’s first phase camping will hold in Abuja or Uyo between May 22nd and 30th, while the second phase camping will hold at a health resort in Austria between June 3rd and 11th June. The close camp at the Eagles’ official World Cup team base camp is at Yessentuki, Stavropol Territory in Russia’s southern region, starting on 11th June.

Apart from the Croatia match, Eagles are to play Iceland on June 22nd in Volgograd Arena before heading to St Petersburg Stadium to play the group’s final game against South America power-house, Argentina on June 26th .