Argentina vs Croatia Match Report: World Cup 2018 – Nizhny Novgorod Stadium – Group D clash – June 21, 2018
Argentina vs Croatia Result: Argentina 0, Croatia 3
Croatia became the fourth team to qualify for the Round of 16 in the WC 2018 after they demolished favorites Argemtina 3-0 in a Group D encounter at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium. The World-Cup runners-up with just a point from their 2 games thus find themselves on the brink of elimination and having to depend on the outcomes of other Group games (e.g. Nigeria v Iceland) to stay alive in the tournament.
Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli's decision to go with just 3 defenders instead of four backfired as the Croatians made constant inroads into the Argentine box with great ease.
It was during such a move that goal-keeper Willy Caballero accidentally gave the ball to Ante Rebic who volleyed it over the custodian's head to give the Croatians their first goal in the 53rd minute. Much before that in a barren first half, Ivan Perisic, Mario Mandzukic and Rebic all had excellent chances to score and put Croatia ahead.
Argentina were toothless in their attacks with Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero looking clueless upfront. In one of his rare attempts at the goal, Messi had his close-range effort blocked by Barcelona team-mate Ivan Rakitic.
Another effort by Maximiliano Meza on goal was dealt with by Croatia’s goalkeeper Danijel Subasic without much trouble.Apart from these, the Albiceleste had very little to show in a game where ironically they started as clear favourites.
The Croatians built up pressure in the 2nd half culminating into Luka Modric's goal. Modric took possession of the ball at about 25 yards from the Argentine goal, tricked center-back Nicolas Otamendi with a drop of his shoulder, shifted the ball to the right and curled in a wicked right-footer into the bottom right of the net. It was an incredible goal to make it 2-0 for the Croatians and put the match beyond the reach of the South Americans.
The Croatians twisted the knife further into an already wounded Argentine side a minute during injury time. Rakitic blazed down the middle, his shot effectively parried by Caballero but the shot deflected from the Argentine goalie to Mateo Kovacic.
Kovacic rolled the ball back to Rakitic who slammed it into an empty net with Caballero completely out of position. 3-0 to Croatia and the Argentines' World Cup dream now hangs by a thread.
The Albiceleste face Nigeria on Tuesday to decide their fate in Russia 2018. But by then, the match could very well become inconsequential for them.