The Super Eagles will on Saturday line out against Croatia for their first match of this year’s World Cup, with a view to ending a jinx of failing to win in their first group games of their past three outings at the Mundial.
The winless opening match streak goes back to Korea/Japan 2002, when they lost 1-0 to Argentina, which was repeated against same team at South Africa 2010 and they draw with Iran in their first game of Brazil 2014, such that beating Croatia on Saturday would be a returning to glory days of yore.
Such was the glory of the past, when Nigeria opened with victory against Bulgaria at USA ’94, and got a repeat at France ’98, to set a record of never losing a first group game against a European team, which Croatia will represent on Saturday.
Gernot Rohr and his men will, therefore, be seeking its first win in their opening game of the World Cup in 20 years when they clash with Croatia on Saturday.
The stage is now set for the Eagles to either repeat their past history or continue the jinx, following their arrival from Austria late Monday in native attires, to be different from the other 31 teams who were mostly dressed in suits on arrival.
From head to toe, the Nigerian squad indulged in their culture, with no intention of blending in with the crowd other nations looking to upset the odds in Russia.
However, they enter the competition as one of the lowest ranked sides, 48th in the FIFA rankings, and third favourites to make it out of their group.
This is Nigeria’s sixth appearance at the World Cup since making a debut show at the USA 1994, when Italy roared from a goal down to edge the Eagles 2-1, with a late penalty by Roberto Baggio.
This time out, the Eagles are in the Group of Death, which features Argentina, Iceland, Croatia; such that hopes of keeping alive the second round feats of 1993, 1998 and 2014 will not come easy.