Former Italy forward Gianfranco Zola pointed at Nigeria’s flat midfield for their 2-0 defeat to Croatia in their opening group game at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
An own goal by Oghenekaro Etebo in the first half and a second-half penalty from Luka Modric sealed the win for Croatia who Zola admits were not at their best during the encounter.
The victory means Croatia lead Group D on three points while Argentina and Iceland are joint-second on a point each following their 1-1 draw earlier on Saturday. Nigeria remain rock bottom following the defeat to the Vatreni.
“They (Croatia) won the game due to the mistakes of the Nigerian team,” the Chelsea legend said on SuperSport where he was a guest analyst for the match.
“Those players (in the Croatian team) play for top clubs and they know how to make the best use of situations (set-pieces) like that. Nigeria were the better side in the first half in my own opinion to be fair, because I expected more from the Croatian team due to the quality in the team.”
The former Napoli and Parma forward also advised coach Gernot Rohr to drop Mikel Obi for a player who has more energy to support the team’s ‘flat’ midfield.
“The midfield was flat there was no creativity and Mikel didn’t do much to help the team. He (Mikel) should leave for a player with more energy to help out. Considering the calibre of players they (Croatia) have,” Zola, who was in the Italy team that defeated Nigeria at the 1994 World Cup, added.
“Defensively they did not do well and they allowed the Croatians dominate in key areas which didn’t help their play.”
Zola also slammed William Troost-Ekong for grappling with Mario Manzukic in the box. He said: “You don’t do such at this level of football. That was poor defending from him (Troost-Ekong) which cost his team a chance to fight back at 2-0 down.”