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Balogun, Idowu rue loss to Croatia, expect better feat against Iceland

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Croatia’s forward Andrej Kramaric (R) vies with Nigeria’s defender Leon Balogun during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group D football match between Croatia and Nigeria at the Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad on June 16, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Attila KISBENEDEK

Saturday’s loss to Croatia has dampened Nigeria’s chances of qualifying for the second round of the on-going World Cup in Russia, but the Super Eagles can still qualify for the second round, says central defender, Leon Balogun.

Balogun, who shook off an injury to feature in Nigeria’s 0-2 loss to the eastern Europeans, however, believes there is nothing to be ashamed off of the Eagles’ performance going by the pedigree of the Croatians.

Speaking at the end of the Group D encounter at the Kaliningrad stadium, Balogun said the Eagles have learnt valuable lessons from the defeat and would look to bounce back against Iceland, which drew 1-1 with Argentina in the group’s first game also on Saturday.

“Things did not work out the way we anticipated today, but I think this match has shown us the areas we must work on before our next game.

“We could not defend set pieces effectively and suffered for it, but generally we did not do enough to expect victory against the more experienced Croatians.

But, there is no need to drop our heads because of this loss. Of course, we need to look dangerous offensively.

It was not that bad as we were confident with the ball, but we need to create more chances.

“Now we have two very important games remaining in the group, and we have to win, at least, one and of course watch what happens in the other games of our group opponents.

“The best we can do now is to focus on ourselves, criticise and analyse what went wrong and what we did well too, and stick to a positive mentality.”

He acknowledged that the Croatians had a game plan that allowed them to hold the ball and stayed in their positions when they lost it, saying, “Maybe we can learn from that. I am optimistic going forward from here,” Balogun.

The team’s left back, Brian Idowu, agreed with Balogun that the Eagles were not overawed by the quality in their opponents, adding, however, that their inability to defend set pieces worked against them.

‘’We worked on the defence with the standards, because in the friendly games we conceded from corners. At first it seemed that we were coping, I even thought that our work was not in vain. But in the end it turned out that the two goals were from corner kicks.

‘’It seems that everything went well, but the ball hit the heel of Etebo, and we missed the goal.

It became more difficult for us to play, because before the missed goal the game was equal, but then the Croats began to act more confidently and began to use our free zones.

‘’The Icelanders do not have such stars as Rakitic and Modric, in this regard they will be easier, we will go on the attack more.

‘’Everything can change in our group; it seems to me, it is the toughest: any team can come out on top. The second game is very important for us, it will be like the final.’’


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