Eagles to Train Behind Closed Gates in Essentuki

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*Kramaric insists clash with Nigeria will define Croatia’s progress in Group D

Duro Ikhazuagbe

Super Eagles players are to have their last training in Essentuki this evening before flying out to Kaliningrad tomorrow morning ahead of the team’s opening game against Croatia on Saturday.

According to Media Officer of the team, Toyin Ibitoye, the public and media will be allowed the first 15 minutes of the morning session while the second training in the evening will be behind closed doors.

Before the training, Eagles handlers are to have session with sportswriters on the team’s preparations for the tournament.

After the six hours flight from Austria to the Russian city on Monday evening, Eagles trained at 5pm local time (3pm Nigeria) yesterday evening.

Earlier, FIFA and Local Organising Committee (LOC) officials conducted arrival meetings with the administrative officials of the three-time African champions at their Sanatorium Istochnik Hotel team base camp in Essentuki.

Ibitoye further confirmed that hundreds of excited Russian football fans were present to watch the Super Eagles training.

The training which lasted two hours was rounded up with a two-a-side game between what looked like the likely starting XI against Croatia. Skipper John Mikel Obi and Ahmed Musa were on target for the likely starters, while Joel Obi opened scoring for the hopefuls.

Eagles opening game of Group D is to hold at the 35,000-capacity Kaliningrad Arena.

Meanwhile, Croatia striker, Andrej Kramaric, has warned that Saturday’s opening Group D match against Nigeria will define his team’s outing at the World Cup in Russia.

Saturday’s match in Kaliningrad will kick off at 8pm local time, which will be 6pm in Nigeria.

It will be the first-ever meeting between the two countries at full international level as Croatia only became an independent country in 1992.

According to ScoreNigeria, Kramaric believes the game is a crunchy one for his star-studded team, who qualified for Russia 2018 through the playoffs.

“Nigeria for me is the most difficult and most important opponent,” he said at the team’s training ground in Saint Petersburg.

“That game is for us opening or the closing of the World Cup. So, we will have full concentration on that game.” Argentina and Iceland are the other teams in Group D.