KALININGRAD: Oghenekaro Etebo’s own goal and a Luka Modric penalty gave Croatia a winning World Cup start against Nigeria in a disappointing Group D match in Kaliningrad.
Etebo, who joined Stoke City from Portuguese club Feirense for £6.35m on Monday, turned Modric’s first-half corner into his own net after Ante Rebic and Mario Mandzukic had both got touches.
Nigeria offered little attacking threat, although Dejan Lovren blocked Alex Iwobi’s shot just before half-time, and Odion Ighalo glanced a Brian Idowu cross straight at goalkeeper Danijel Subasic.
Modric scored the second Croat goal by converting a 71st-minute penalty – Croatia’s first shot on target – after William Troost-Ekong had manhandled Mandzukic at a corner. It was the 2,400th goal in the history of the finals.
Croatia captain Modric won the Champions League for the fourth time in five seasons with Real Madrid in May but his preparations for Russia had been upset over his controversial involvement in the tax fraud trial of Dinamo Zagreb top official Zdravko Mamic.
Rebic, who scored twice as Eintracht Frankfurt beat Bayern Munich to win the German Cup in May, later volleyed wide from six yards.
Victory took Croatia top of their group, two points ahead of Iceland and Argentina who had drawn 1-1 earlier in Moscow Spartak.