KALININGRAD, Russia (Reuters) - Croatia midfielder Luka Modric suggested that his team’s 2-0 victory over Nigeria on Saturday had turned up the heat on Group D favorites Argentina who were held to a tame 1-1 draw by Iceland earlier in the day.
Modric scored a second half penalty to secure the win after Croatia went ahead through a first half own goal by Nigeria midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo. The result left the European side top of the group ahead of Iceland and Argentina, whom they face in Nizhny Novgorod on Thursday.
“They (Argentina) have quality but this win will boost our confidence and I hope we can play well against them,” Modric, who excelled in his role as a playmaker, told reporters.
“It is going to be a difficult match. Maybe against the favorites in our group... but they will have to play for a win because of the scoreline today that they never expected.”
Argentina’s talisman Lionel Messi missed a penalty as the South Americans played out a disappointing 1-1 draw against spirited World Cup debutants Iceland.
Asked if he was nervous before his own spot kick, man-of-the-match Modric said: “I wasn’t... I was focused on scoring. Thank God that I scored. Nothing more to say about that really.”
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic shrugged off the fact that both the team’s scoring opportunities resulted from set pieces.
“A win is a win. Corners and penalties are part of football,” he said.
“What is important is that you score. There was luck there but we earned it. We want to be more attacking but we are not going to split hairs about how we scored.
“There’s still much work to be done to emerge from the group but these three points are extremely important. We can’t let our guard down. Nothing is over. We have to now think of Argentina.”
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Yekaterinburg, editing by Pritha Sarkar