For true international soccer fans, Nigeria vs. Croatia is a highly anticipated 2018 World Cup opener featuring teams with high expectations. The Group D squads will face off on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET. Croatia is the favorite at -140, meaning it would take a wager of $140 to win $100. Nigeria is posted at +430 (risk $100 to win $430), while a draw is 250. The Over-Under on goals scored in this 2018 World Cup match is 2.5.
Each team features talent from Europe’s top leagues, so before you choose a side, you need to see who Thomas Rongen is picking. The Dutch-American commentator boasts an incomparable soccer background — assistant coach and chief international scout for the U.S. men’s national team, MLS coach of the year and head coach of the U.S. men’s Under-20 team among them.
Rongen has broken down every World Cup roster and every opening round matchup. He’s revealing his picks for the world’s biggest sporting event exclusively at SportsLine.
We can tell you Rongen is leaning toward the Over on 2.5 goals for Nigeria-Croatia. For his money line pick, he has isolated a critical X-factor based on his inside knowledge of these players and coaches that he says will determine the outcome.
Rongen knows these two teams are in the same group with powerhouse Argentina, along with “just a dream to be here” Iceland. That means this particular matchup could go a long way in determining which team has the better chance of advancing to the World Cup knockout stage.
Croatia has not made it past the Round of 16 in five appearances at the World Cup, but many experts peg them as a possible sleeper.
Croatia has one of the world’s top midfielders in Luke Modric. The Real Madrid standout has won two Champions League titles and was named to the UEFA Team of the Year in 2016.
Nigeria enters the World Cup on a five-game winless streak. Their final tune-up was a lackluster 1-0 loss to the Czech Republic on June 6, a team that didn’t qualify for the World Cup.
This is the seventh World Cup bid for Nigeria, historically one of Africa’s top teams and a Round-of-16 entrant three times.
Nigeria’s team features several players from the Premier League, plus captain John Obi, a former Chelsea midfielder now in China. Arsenal midfielder Alex Iwobi and three players from Leicester City are featured.