Saturday, December 15, 2018

World Cup 2018: Rakitic ready to rumble with Messi in Croatia v Argentina

SoccerNews in World Cup 1 Dec 2017

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Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitic is relishing a World Cup showdown with Barcelona team-mates Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano.

Messi and Argentina were placed alongside Croatia, Nigeria and tournament debutants Iceland in a tough-looking Group D at Friday’s draw in Moscow.

Argentina were beaten finalists when Germany triumphed at Brazil 2014, but they needed heroics from Messi, who scored a hat-trick in their final qualifier against Ecuador, to get to the finals this time around.

Rakitic is part of a celebrated Croatia generation who are likely to have their final collective shot at a major tournament in Russia.

“It’s a tough group, it will be big fight,” the 29-year-old told 24 sata.

“I believe we have the quality to go through. I am glad to play against my friends Messi and Mascherano.

“It is a World Cup and we have to face the best. I can’t wait for the World Cup, especially against Argentina.

“Respect towards Argentina and Messi but it makes our motivation even bigger.”

Rakitic’s national coach Zlatko Dalic unsurprisingly took a more pragmatic view and conceded he would rather not be making plans for Messi.

“It could have been better and could have been worse,” Dalic told HTV.

“Nigeria has a young team, very fast. I wanted to avoid those two or three best teams [like Argentina] but we have nothing to lose. They are favourites.”

Iceland and Croatia were paired together in qualification, claiming a win apiece, and Dalic added: “Iceland, we know them well. I spoke to their coach [Heimir Hallgrimsson] and he said, ‘Oh no, not you again’.”

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