Argentina face elimination after Croatian catastrophe
Croatia 3 (Rebic 53’, Modric 80′, Rakitic 90+1’)
By Jakob Gisik
Argentina is on the brink of elimination from the 2018 FIFA World Cup after being thumped by Croatia 3-0 at the Nizhny Novgorod stadium.
La Albiceleste must now beat Nigeria in their final group D match, and hope other results go their way, if they are to advance to the knockout stage.
Croatia on the other hand are two-from-two at the World Cup and have secured a spot in the last 16 for the first time since 1998.
Simply incredible from #CRO as they seal their place in the knock-out stages with a historic victory!
— FIFA World Cup ???? (@FIFAWorldCup) June 21, 2018
The scores were locked at 0-0 at the break, but a horrific error by Argentine goalkeeper Willy Caballero shortly after half-time turned the match on its head.
After receiving a regulation back-pass, Caballero totally mistimed his clearance, chipping the ball straight to Ante Rebic who sent the ball back past the hapless keeper and into the net.
Argentina’s coach Jorge Sampaoli said his side never recovered after conceding the opening goal.
“After they scored on us, we kind of lost our way,” said Sampaoli after the match.
“We were emotionally broken and we didn’t [do anything] to change the course of events.”
It was a tough night for Sampaoli, who again decided to start Juventus duo Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala on the bench.
Despite this, it was Argentina who had the best chance of the first half, when, in the 35th minute, Enzo Perez found himself in front of an almost open goal, but inexcusably failed to hit the target.
It was all downhill from there for the South American side, who fell behind shortly after half-time thanks to Caballero’s blunder.
Croatia captain Luka Modric doubled his side’s lead with a superb individual goal 10-minutes from full-time, curling the ball past a diving Caballero from well outside the box.
Croatia then made it 3-0 in stoppage time, when substitute Mateo Kovacic led the Vatreni on a counter-attack down the middle of the pitch, before squaring the ball to Ivan Rakitic, who tapped home the easiest of goals from six-yards out.
The goal capped off a great night for Croatia, who became the fourth team at this year’s World Cup to qualify for the knockout stage.
They’ll play their final group match against Iceland on Wednesday, while Argentina’s World Cup dream rests on their clash with Nigeria.
Shots (On Target)
Argentina – 10 (3)
Croatia – 14 (5)
Argentina – 58%
Croatia – 42%
Argentina – 16
Croatia – 22
Argentina – 5
Croatia – 2
Argentina: 23 Caballero (GK), 2 Mercado, 3 Tagliafico, 8 Acuna, 10 Messi (C), 13 Meza, 14 Mascherano, 15 Perez (68’), 17 Otamendi, 18 Salvio (56’), 19 Aguero (54’).
Substitutes – 1 Guzman, 4 Ansaldi, 5 Biglia, 6 Fazio, 7 Banega, 9 Higuain (54’), 11 Di Maria, 12 Armani, 16 Rojo, 20 Lo Celso, 21 Dybala (68’), 22 Pavon (56’).
Croatia: 23 Subasic (GK), 2 Vrsalijko, 3 Strinic, 4 Perisic (82’), 6 Lovren, 7 Rakitic, 10 Modric (C), 11 Brozovic, 17 Mandzukic (90’), 18 Rebic (57’), 21 Vida.
Substitutes – 1 Livakovic (GK), 5 Corluka (90’), 8 Kovacic (82’), 9 Kramaric (57’), 12 Kalinic, 13 Jedvaj, 14 Bradaric, 15 Caleta-Car, 19 Badeji, 20 Pjaca, 22 Pivaric.