The majority of the ‘big’ teams involved in the 2018 FIFA World Cup have struggled to really get going, but for Argentina, they’ve completely collapsed. Their hopes of winning the tournament were dealt a huge blow tonight as they fell to an embarrassing 3-0 defeat against a thoroughly impressive Croatia side. From the first whistle until the very last it seemed as if they weren’t at the races, but when it was all said and done, there were clear moments during the game that summed up the mentality of this Argentina team perfectly.
Lionel Messi was always expected to be the highlight reel of the evening, but much like their game against Iceland, he struggled to find his footing. He was cut adrift and struggled to make much of an impact, as the players around him failed to provide the kind of service that he requires – or that he’s used to back at Barcelona.
Despite their poor play, they were still in the game at half-time, as Croatia were unable to find the back of the net despite controlling the majority of the possession. Both teams had somewhat golden chances but were unable to take them, and yet from the moment the second half began, it felt like the only way was down for the 2014 WC finalists.
It looked as if they had nine or ten men on the pitch – which speaks volumes about how much room they were allowing Croatia to have. The seal was finally broken as Caballero attempted to chip the ball over Ante Rebic, only to play it right into the Croatian’s path as he volleyed the ball in the top corner of the net.
Luka Modric all but sealed the result with a delightful curling shot that doubled their advantage, and then finally, Ivan Rakitic scored the third and final goal to compile an utterly miserable evening for Argentina. For many teams, the way they perform in qualifying doesn’t always indicate how things will go in major international tournaments, but that couldn’t have been more accurate for Argentina thus far in Russia.
They face a mammoth task to qualify for the Round of 16, and they’ll be extremely interested in tomorrow afternoon’s encounter between Iceland and Nigeria. That game will show them what they need to do in their final group stage showdown against the Super Eagles, whereas Croatia, who have already qualified for the knockout stages, will attempt to keep their momentum going when they face Iceland.
Argentina: Caballero (4), Mercado (5.5), Otamendi (4), Tagliafico (5.5), Salvio (5.5), Pavon (6), Perez (6), Dybala (N/A), Mascherano (5), Acuna (5.5), Messi (6), Meza (5.5), Aguero (5), Higuain (5.5)
Croatia: Subasic (6.5), Vrsaljko (6.5), Lovren (7), Vida (7), Strinic (6.5), Brozovic (7), Rebic (7), Kramaric (6.5), Modric (7.5), Rakitic (8), Perisic (7.5), Kovacic (7), Mandzukic (6), Corluka (N/A)
Referee: Ravshan Irmatov
Goals: Rebic, Modric, Rakitic
Yellow Cards: Mercado, Otamendi, Acuna, Vrsaljko, Rebic, Mandzukic, Corluka
Red Cards: N/A
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