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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 July 2018

Luka Modric ready for Argentina challenge after scripting Croatia victory

Croatia begin life in Group D with victory over Nigeria, while Lionel Messi's Argentina forced to settle for a point against Iceland

Luka Modric, left, celebrates with Croatia teammate Ante Rebic after converting a penalty against Nigeria that gave Croatia a 2-0 win at Kaliningrad Stadium. Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters
Luka Modric, left, celebrates with Croatia teammate Ante Rebic after converting a penalty against Nigeria that gave Croatia a 2-0 win at Kaliningrad Stadium. Fabrizio Bensch / 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 favourites 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 Croatia 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 favourites in our group ... but they will have to play for a win because of the scoreline today that they never expected."

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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 manager 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."