After a goalless first half that saw both Argentina and Croatia presented with equal opportunities for going ahead, Argentina suffered terrible lapses of concentration in the second as they were consigned to a shock 0-3 defeat tonight. If Lionel Messi came under heavy criticism for his penalty miss against Iceland, Argentina appeared to be a deflated side after Croatia opened the scoring through a goalkeeper’s error.Let’s go through the FIFA World Cup 2018 match highlights:
FIFA World Cup 2018 Match Highlights: Argentina vs Croatia
With their comfortable win over Argentina, Croatia have booked their place in the Round of 16 with one more game to play. On the other hand, group favourites, Argentina are facing an embarrassing first round exit even if they win their third and final game, as they now have to await the results of their rival teams in Group D.
Croatia’s victory may not count as the upset of the tournament given their own FIFA world rankings, but their overwhelming victory not only could have caused an uproar in the betting market, but the result has also lived up to FIFA World Cup 2018’s early reputation of a tournament full of upsets. Germany’s defeat at the hands of Mexico might still rank higher.
Argentina now have to wait for the result between Iceland and Nigeria tomorrow, which will go a long way in determining if Lionel Messi’s team can hope to qualify for the knockout stages of the competition. But their underwhelming display in Russia thus far doesn’t inspire too much confidence of Argentina’s success going forward. These were the things that went wrong for Argentina tonight:
Manager Jorge Sampaoli made a vital strategic error while approaching the game against Croatia, who seemed to counter it brilliantly. The draw against Iceland, where they packed in their half with defenders and didn’t let Messi move into spaces from where he could control the game, prompted the Argentina manager to start with a three-man defence line instead of four, hoping to spread the ball out wide with players pressing ahead.
Instead, Croatia were up for the challenge as they continued to press higher and higher, putting immense pressure on the Argentina back line that caused miscommunication between the defenders and goalkeeper Willy Caballero. Caballero had erred in handling back passes against Iceland as well, and against Croatia, he first played a pass back to the defender short which could have resulted in disaster in the first half. But the error came back to haunt him as another mishit found striker Ante Rebic, who promptly struck the ball back in goal powerfully to give Croatia the lead.
Caballero’s mistake in the first half, and then in the second, highlighted Argentina’s nervousness against the high-pressing Croatians, who made no mistake in sensing an opportunity.
Messi goes invisible
If Messi became the culprit for missing the penalty that could have won Argentina the game against Iceland, against Croatia he barely got to the ball. Experts had highlighted that Iceland’s defence prompted Messi to fall back almost to the half-line to take the ball up, he was consigned to a similar role even today with Croatian players not letting him off the hook. Messi missed a close opportunity for goal in the first half, and created a couple of chances, but was close to a spectator in the second. So frustrated was Messi in the second half that a collision with another Croatian player prompted him to lash out instead of helping the player up.
Messi’s chance of winning a World Cup are now rested on Argentina’s third and final game of Group D, but Argentina’s over-reliance on him, and not coming up with a second plan in a case such as this doesn’t promise much.
Clueless Argentina give up
Argentina may have enjoyed 59 percent possession on the ball in the match, but it was clear who controlled the game. Argentina’s possession mostly involved keeping the ball rotating in their own half, while Croatia, whenever presented with an opportunity, threatened to score. The absence of Marcos Rojo in the backline meant Argentina’s defenders were slow to respond, and the high-pressing Croatian attack meant they made quick advances into goal-scoring positions.
Ten minutes into time, though, Croatia and Real Madrid’s Luka Modric produced a moment of brilliance that put a hold to Argentina’s hopes of a comeback, however remote they were. Modric confounded Nicolas Otamendi just outside the box, moved wide and unleashed a right foot so good that the ball curved from just outside the post and past goalkeeper Caballero’s outstretched hand.
Ivan Rakitic, Messi’s colleague at Barcelona, struck the upright with a stunning freekick which signaled Croatia were not sitting pretty with the lead, and made it 3-0 soon after with another counterattack, as Rakitic slotted home from close range with little trouble.
Argentina’s appalling display against Croatia, and Messi’s inability to inspire them has cost them dearly in FIFA World Cup 2018, unless they produce an inspiring performance in their final group game. Croatia, on the other hand, have dominated the group, thanks to an envious generation of footballers they have assembled, with Rakitic and Modric at the peak of their powers controlling the midfield, while a quality striker like Mario Mandzukic produces thrilling finishes.
|2018-06-21||11:30 pm||FIFA World Cup||2018||90'|
|Nizhny Novgorod Stadium|
|Ulitsa Dolzhanskaya, 2Ак1, Nizhnij Novgorod, Nizhegorodskaya oblast\', Russia, 603159|