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Croatia dismantles Lionel Messi and Argentina, wins 3-0

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Argentina v Croatia: Group D - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

FINAL SCORE: CROTIA 3 - ARGENTINA 0

What a match. What a heartbreak for Argentina and Lionel Messi.

Croatia came out the more composed side early, and weathered a few Argentina attacks that looked dangerous. The game got a bit chippy toward the end of the first half, but looked pretty square.

Then in the second half, Croatia came out flying. A Willy Caballero howler started things off, but from there Argentina had no ideas, and kept throwing players forward in a desperate attempt to make something happen. Nothing did. Croatia got two late goals from Modric (the man of the match) and Rakitic, and that was it.

No, the Albiceleste have not been eliminated yet, but their chances of advancing aren’t good. Here are the scenarios for Argentina getting out of the World Cup group stage.


GOAL CROATIA, 3-0: Rakitic makes it three with a simple finish

This is getting depressing.


GOAL CROATIA, 2-0: Luka Modric with a gorgeous strike and that might be it for Argentina

This is so sad for Messi, but good lord that is a beautiful finish from Modric.


GOAL CROATIA: And it’s a nightmare error from Willy Caballero

Oh man, what just happened? A back pass to Argentina goalkeeper Willy Caballero sees him pop the ball up when trying to make a pass out, then Ante Rebic finishes with a beautiful volley.


HALFTIME: Argentina 0 - Croatia 0

Well that was a half of soccer. The best chance fell to Argentina’s Enzo Perez, who wasn’t able to direct a left-footed shot from about 12 yards out. Other than that, there was a ton of people kicking each other. They kicked feet and shins and knees and thighs and ankles. All sorts of things were kicked. It was a veritable smorgasbord of people getting kicked.

Tactically, Argentina going with a basic 3-5-2 with Messi up top and some wingbacks gave them opportunities going forward, but Croatia nearly took advantage of the lack of fullbacks with some well-placed long balls from Rakitic in the center midfield. We’ll see if they keep this up going forward.


Argentina and Croatia lineups

Argentina vs. Croatia Time, TV channel, and streaming info

Time: 2 p.m. ET

Location: Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia

TV: FOX (English), Telemundo (Spanish)

Streaming: Available for free with TV provider through FOX Sports Go (English) or Telemundo Deportes en vivo (Spanish). Also available on subscriptions services like Fubo and Hulu.

Odds: Argentina -0.5 (Full odds at OddsShark)

Preview

Argentina and Croatia will continue their pursuit to the top of Group D when the two face off in their second match of the 2018 World Cup on Thursday. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. ET at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Russia. You can watch it on FOX or Telemundo, and online streaming is also available in English through FOX here or in Spanish through Telemundo here.

After an exciting tie between with Iceland, Argentina will be looking for a shot to move up in its group standings. Lionel Messi, as always, is the key to Argentina’s success, but the team will also continue to look to Javier Mascherano to help out the defense. Croatia’s key player continues to be midfielder Luka Modric.

This is an exciting matchup, and the stakes are incredibly high in Argentina vs. Croatia, not only for the two teams in this World Cup, but for the legacy of the main players, especially Lionel Messi.

Argentina will always run through Lionel Messi

Argentina is a bit unfair to Lionel Messi, in that the entire team is built around him, and despite a middling squad surrounding him, he is praised or blamed no matter what happens. Messi is perhaps the best player to ever live, so it’s tough to blame Argentina for this strategy, but let’s see if they can get more help around him than they did in a frustrating first game against Iceland.

Croatia’s spark is Luca Modric

Modric is as technically gifted as any midfielder alive, and Croatia runs their entire offense through him. He’s their creative inspiration, their engine, their spark. Argentina’s lineup seems built to try and suffocate the space he normally operates him, though, and it will be interesting to see how Javier Mascherano and company deal with him in the middle of the field.

Argentina vs. Croatia news to read before kickoff

Croatia firmly in control throughout 2-0 win over Nigeria

Based on Nigeria’s performances in friendlies and qualifying, this World Cup Group D match had the potential to be a lot of fun. Instead, Croatia’s midfield duo of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic kept control of the ball all game long, guiding their team to a comfortable 2-0 victory.

Argentina has a better penalty taker than Lionel Messi hiding in its lineup

Sampaoli does, however, have a better penalty taker than Messi hiding in his starting lineup. Striker Sergio Aguero, who is the usual penalty taker for Manchester City, has a better record from the spot than his national team captain. Messi is 76.7 percent for his career on penalties, while Aguero has an 81.3 percent conversion rate.