U-17 World Cup: Eaglets top group, land in knockout stages despite shocking loss to Croatia in last group game

Posted by News Express | 24 October 2015 | 3,062 times

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Croatia came from behind to defeat Group A winners Nigeria 2-1 in the wee hours of this orning and advance to the knockout stages of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Chile 2015.

That, however, did not alter the equation at the top of the table – thank to the Eaglets’ victories over the USA and hosts Chile in their first two games. Coach Emmanuel Ameneke’s boys remain Group A winners and will wait to see which third-placed team from Groups C, D or E they will come up against in the Round of 16 on Wednesday, October 28.

Croatia, knowing a win would be enough for them to advance to the knockout stages, started the match in Coquimbo with great determination and created a number of chances early in the match. Croatia captain Nikola Moro had a shot from around the penalty area deflect strongly off Nigeria’s brave defenders.

Four minutes later, Nigeria had their first significant chance of the match when Victor Osimhen, after an impressive counter attack, slotted a shot past Croatia goalkeeper Adrian Semper only for it to hit the base of the goal post.

Osimhen would not have to wait long to see his fortunes change when, after another swift counter attack, he calmly danced around Semper to score and become the tournament's outright top scorer, tallying his fourth goal at Chile 2015 so far.

Croatia continued to have the majority of possession for the remainder of the half. In the 39th minute Moro had a strong free-kick saved superbly by Nigeria keeper Akpan Udoh. Croatia would have one more significant chance before the interval but Borna Sosa’s shot was deflected for a corner after Ejike Ikwu’s intervention. When the referee blew the whistle for half-time, Croatia had 18 attempts to Nigeria’s three, but it was the Africans who held the important advantage.

Croatia returned from the break anxious to finally convert a chance and they did so just five minutes into the second half. Josip Brekalo scored the equaliser after Moro wriggled his way along the Nigerian defence’s goal-line and found his team-mate on the back post.

Dario Basic’s Croatia then used their momentum to take the lead four minutes later when they capitalised on an error from Nigeria’s backline. Karlo Majic cooly curled in a right-footed shot to score his second of the tournament and, more importantly, give his team the lead.

There were chances for both sides towards the end and Nigeria threatened to score an equaliser in the final minutes. The stand-out moment was Croatia defender Branimir Kalaica’s last-ditch block on Samuel Chukwueze to keep his side 2-1 ahead.

Croatia held on to their lead in the end to become the first Croatian team ever to reach the Round of 16 in the tournament and will now face the runners-up in Group C on Thursday, October 29.

•Adapted from a fifa.com report. Photo shows a Croatian player getting the better of his Nigerian markers during the match.


Source: News Express

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