"We scored at the flawless moment. But I can't blame the players, much less Messi, who gave it all he had", said Maradona.
"Maybe we needed to be more creative in the first half - perhaps we needed some more through balls from midfield such as the one which led to the penalty".
With 20 minutes left, Mandzukic was blatantly brought down in the box by a near-chokehold from William Troost-Ekong.
Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr felt his team also deserved a penalty.
Croatia, with Modric and Ivan Rakitic controlling the midfield, dominated most of the match and rarely allowed Nigeria to get close to goal.
Former Watford star, Odion Ighalo, did get a header on target an hour into the game, but with no pace put on it towards the centre of the goal, it was an easy save for the untested Danijel Subasic.
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Furthermore, the first penalty scored in the World Cup 2018 was by Ronaldo, and the first penalty missed was by Messi.
Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli giving instruction during 1-1 draw against Iceland.
Croatia's place in the last 16 will be virtually guaranteed if they beat the Argentines, who will face a nervous fight to qualify if they fail to win.
Nigeria, however, now needs a win against Iceland on Friday to have any real chance of advancing. "As for my adoptive country: most times there is a lot of hype around England but this team is very young and expectations are not high. Corners and penalties are part of football", he said.
One of the youngest teams in the tournament with an average of just over 26, the Super Eagles displayed plenty of youthful energy but some of it was misplaced during a physical clash that allowed Croatia to score from set pieces. There was luck there but we earned it.