Croatia striker sent home after refusing to play against Nigeria

Nikola Kalinic has been sent home from the World Cup by Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic after the AC Milan forward refused to come on as a second-half substitute during the 2-0 defeat of Nigeria on Saturday, according to reports.

Kalinic, 30, who was starting his fourth successive international on the bench, claimed he had a back injury before telling Dalic he was unable to play.

Speaking after his side’s 2-0 win that made them Group D leaders ahead of Iceland, Argentina and Nigeria, Dalic, according to Croatian media reports, said his side had finished the match in Kaliningrad without any injuries but “with a problem”.

The news will sour what had been a positive start to the tournament after Luka Modric had scored from the penalty spot to seal all three points for Croatia after an own-goal from Oghenekaro Etebo had handed Dalic’s side the lead.

Modric converted in the 71st minute when referee Sandro Ricci awarded a penalty after William Ekong held onto Mario Mandzukic, the only recognised Croatia No 9 following Kalinic’s dismissal.

The Croatian Football Federation has yet to confirm Kalinic’s expulsion from the tournament, though are expected to confirm it later on Monday during a press conference three days ahead of their game with Argentina in Nizhny Novgorod.