Ea­gles swoop on Group of Death

Afro Voice (Western Cape) - - Sport -

DARK horse Croa­tia take on spir­ited Nige­ria in a World Cup opener to­mor­row that could leave one side fight­ing for their tour­na­ment lives in the Group of Death.

At ev­ery World Cup a group is stamped with the omi­nous “Death” la­bel and in Rus­sia that des­ig­na­tion has fallen on Group D.

Croa­tia and Nige­ria, two teams who fully ex­pect to reach the knock­out round, are joined by Ar­gentina, led by five­times world player of the year Li­onel Messi, and sur­prise pack­age Ice­land, look­ing to match their march into the quar­ter­fi­nals at Euro 2016.

Nige­ria will try to put a run of in­dif­fer­ent form and con­tro­versy be­hind them when they step onto the pitch at the Kaliningrad Sta­dium.

The Su­per Ea­gles come into their tour­na­ment opener hav­ing failed to win in their last four in­ter­na­tional friendlies and dogged by scan­dal with coach Ger­not Rohr ac­cus­ing some re­porters of un­eth­i­cal be­hav­iour and com­ing up with lies in the build-up to the World Cup.

Nige­ria are the low­est-ranked team in the group at 48 but have dis­played the abil­ity to punch above their weight as they did at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil when they reached the round of 16.

“I love this group be­cause we know how to rise to the oc­ca­sion to­gether,” Rohr said. “Nige­ria will be ready for Croa­tia.”

In con­trast, Croa­tia, a team stacked with qual­ity, have of­ten failed to live up to ex­pec­ta­tions. They ar­rive in Rus­sia with the sort of qual­ity and ex­pe­ri­ence through­out their lineup that should make them a threat to any team, mark­ing them out as tour­na­ment dark horses.

For Croa­tia ev­ery­thing re­volves around Real Madrid play­maker Luka Mo­dric, for many the best mid­fielder in the game to­day, while An­drej Kra­maric, Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzu­kic will pro­vide the goals. – Reuters

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