This is the 23rd match in the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 holding in Russia.
Argentina and Croatia playing in the Group D at 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET
___SCORE: ARGENTINA 0-3 CROATIA___
Lionel Messi’s World Cup woes continued as Argentina crashed to a 3-0 defeat to Croatia at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium.
Willy Caballero’s clanger presented Ante Rebic with an opportunity he could not refuse, and Croatia rolled on to a stunning 3-0 victory over Argentina that sent them into the last 16 of the World Cup.
Jorge Sampaoli’s side produced an abysmal second-half display that severely damages their hopes of following Croatia out of Group D, with Caballero’s stray pass to Gabriel Mercado that was volleyed home by Ante Rebic in the 53rd minute proving the turning point.
Any hopes of a late Argentina fightback were extinguished 10 minutes from time as the irrepressible Luka Modric whipped a fine strike into the bottom-right corner from just outside the penalty area.
Argentina had all but given up by the closing stages and they were punished further in stoppage time when Ivan Rakitic tapped in from close range with barely a defender in sight.
All eyes were on Lionel Messi before the game after his saved penalty in the South Americans’ opening 1-1 draw with Iceland and, once again, he was a shadow of the player that has starred for Barcelona.
Messi cut an isolated figure throughout and was unable to rouse his side in the closing stages, leaving them in danger of needing a win and a swing in goal difference to reach the knockout stages.
Argentina brought in Marcos Acuna, Enzo Perez and Mercado after the draw with Iceland and started sluggishly, almost falling behind after just five minutes.
Ivan Perisic surged into space down the left and cracked a shot towards the bottom-right corner, which was superbly tipped around the post by Caballero – only starting in Russia due to a knee injury for regular number one Sergio Romero.
Sampaoli’s men were far from fluid in attack in the early stages, but did twice come close to breaking the deadlock.
A superb Dejan Lovren block prevented Maximiliano Meza’s low strike finding the net and then Acuna’s whipped cross clipped the top of Danijel Subasic’s crossbar.
Perez squandered a golden opportunity to score at the half-hour mark, conspiring to strike wide of an almost open goal from 15 yards after some haphazard Croatia defending.
Mario Mandkuzic somehow failed to find the back of the net just three minutes later, stealing in unmarked at the back post and flashing a header wide of Caballero’s right-hand post from six yards.
There was still time for one more act of profligacy before the interval when Rebic made a mess of Modric’s wonderful pass behind the Argentina backline, thumping well over.
There was no such wastefulness from Rebic eight minutes into the second period, as he unerringly rifled a volley past Caballero after the goalkeeper’s chip lacked the power to evade him.
Argentina almost bounced back soon after, but Subasic kept out Meza’s close-range effort from substitute Gonzalo Higuain’s cutback and they were unable to bundle the rebound home.
A leveller scarcely looked likely after that and their miserable night was compounded when Modric curled in superbly from 20 yards.
Rakitic was fouled by Javier Mascherano – Nicolas Otamendi receiving a booking for appearing to kick the ball towards the consequently prone Barca midfielder’s head as tempers flared – and crashed the resulting free-kick against the crossbar.
There was no denying Rakitic in the 91st minute, though, as he slotted home from the centre of the box after Mateo Kovacic’s initial shot was saved by Caballero, making a premature exit a distinct possibility for the two-time champions.
1 – This was Argentina’s heaviest def in the first round group stages of a World Cup tournament since losing 1 to Czechoslovakia in 1958. Crushed.
#ARG #CRO #ARGCRO
8:56 PM – Jun 21, 2018
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Key Opta stats:
– This was Argentina’s heaviest defeat in the first-round group stages of a World Cup tournament since losing 6-1 to Czechoslovakia in 1958.
– Ante Rebic’s goal was only his second for Croatia, and his first since August 2013 in a friendly against Liechtenstein.
– Argentina have failed to win either of their opening two group stage matches for the first time since 1974.
– Argentina are now winless in their last four World Cup games (D2 L2), their longest ever such run in the competition.
– Argentina forward Lionel Messi has had more shots than any other player so far at this World Cup (12) but has failed to score with any of them.
46′ We’re back underway at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium; can either side find a goal in this second half to alter the path of their World Cup fortunes?
Zlatko Dalic is likely to be the happier of the two managers during the break; though his side have had less overall possession, they have offered more threat and twice as many attempts on goal as their opponents. As for Argentina, Jorge Sampaoli will have to decide whether to make an early change to improve supply to Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero at the front; both have been woefully provided and unable to offer much threat, despite the occasionally leaky work of the Croatian defence.
Poor finishing and nervy defending is the story of the first half at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium as neither Argentina or Croatia are able to find a breakthrough. A pair of absolute sitters for Enzo Perez and Mario Mandzukic in the space of three minutes represent the best chances either side have had despite some shambolic back-line work from both teams – so at half-time, it remains Argentina 0-0 Croatia.
45′ + 2′ HALF-TIME: ARGENTINA 0-0 CROATIA
45′ + 2′ What an awful finish from Rebic! A beautiful crossfield pass from Modric finds him unmarked on the left wing but he makes an awful first touch and his follow-up steers the ball well wide to the right.
45′ Two added minutes on the way at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium.
43′ Salvio wins another free-kick for Argentina off Rebic but his delivery deep is poor and a moment later, Croatia win themselves one after an accidental handball by Messi.
41′ Despie those aforementioned issues at the back for both sides so far, there has only been five shots in this game so far; two for Argentina and three for Croatia.
39′ Rebic gets the first booking of the game as he comes in, studs up, on Salvio and catches him in the ankle. Argentina coach Sampaoli remonstrates loudly to the referee for VAR, wanting a red card; none is forthcoming.
38′ Play is back underway and Subasic has an easy collection as Mascherano sticks a soft effort into the box.
36′ Rebic concedes a free-kick inside his own half for a high challenge after he and Mercado clash in mid-air with the latter coming off worse.
33′ Mandzukic! Another massive miss in this game, this time as Vrsaljko delivers a wonderful cross in off the right wing and the striker can only land a glance with his diving header from six yards out on the left, sticking it wide of the near post. How this game has not seen a goal yet is a minor miracle.
32′ Bad defending is catching, it seems; Vida sticks a square pass across the back-line in sniffing distance of Messi and the captain puts it straight to Subasic.
30′ What a miss by Perez! Meza fools Subasic and coaxes him out of his six yard area; a deflected square ball lands at the feet of the River Plate man and, with practically an empty net in front of him, pulls it wide at the near-left post. That could come back to haunt Argentina; a golden chance goes begging.
29′ Despite being the more lacklustre of the two sides in Nizhny Novgorod, Argentina have seen more of the ball; they have had 57 percent of possession so far.
27′ Meza wastes the set-piece and puts it straight into the side netting. Croatia get the goal-kick.
26′ Argentina win themselves a corner now as Aguero intercepts a pass 40 yards out and carves a path into the box before seeing Vida deflect his low shot out over the crossbar.
25′ Now it is Subasic’s turn to put himself under pressure as he mishandles a back-pass from Lovren and has to frantically clear his lines under pressure from Meza.
23′ Croatia are looking to find the net for their sixth consecutive World Cup game, to extend their current record streak of five. They’re looking like they might, given the fragility of the Argentina back-line…
21′ Acuna! The winger’s cross in from the left is hooked wide of the mark – and hits the crossbar instead. An almost accidental score for the Argentina man there.
20′ Mandzukic intercepts Caballero’s pass to Tagliafico inside the Argentina box! The Croatian brings down the defender and concedes a free-kick in the process but that was an absolute howler of a soft delivery from the keeper to his left-back.
18′ Tagliafico and Otamendi play it around the back only to put it out for a throw-in. Argentina recover and take it down the other end through Messi, only for them to concede a free-kick after Mascherano fouls Modric.
16′ Perez and Rakitic both slide in on each other in pursuit of a loose pass and it is the latter who gets the free-kick just over halfway after staying down.
14′ It’s a poor set-piece from Argentina who play it short and around the box, allowing Rakitic to hound them back into thieir own half with a speculative interception.
13′ Superb block by Lovren! Meza arrives on the back of a cut-back pass from Salvio in the middle of the box and lashes it towards goal, with the defender getting his body in the way in time to deflect it. Corner to Argentina.
12′ Messi! The Argentina captain can’t get the end of his foot on a chipped pass eight yards out from the Croatian goal and can only watch as it bounces into the hands of Subasic.
10′ Chance for Croatia! Rakitic pings a lovely cross over to the right edge of the Argentina box which Modric turns back in for Rebic, only for Tagliafico to get wrapped up in it and clip it away from danger for Argentina.
9′ A moment later, Mandzukic has the favour returned as Tagliafico catches him on the foot and Croatia are awarded a free-kick deep in their own half.
7′ Mandzukic clatters Otamendi as the two chase a ball in the Argentina half and the latter wins a free-kick, though he takes a moment to get gingerly back to his feet.
5′ Mascherano is the hero for Argentina as he clears the set-piece at the second attempt following a nervy moment in the box following the inswinging set-piece. Croatia will be all too aware of their opposition’s defensive flaws and their liability to be caught out at the back.
4′ Strong attacking work from Argentina has kept Croatia mostly pinned in their own half but then Perisic sets off flying down the left flank with the ball to force them into defence. The attacking midfielder cuts in and spears a low shot in; Caballero gets his fingertips to it and pushes it away for a corner.
2′ Rakitic is almost dispossessed by Aguero as the Croatian midfielder looks to bring the ball away from his own box; he manages to hold onto it before slipping a throughball down the centre for Modric which Perez picks up instead.
1′ We’re underway in Nizhny Novgorod! Argentina create the first attacking move, with Messi playing off Meza down the left flank, only for Vrsaljko to turn them both around and force them back with some stern defending.
The anthems are over and we’re moments away from kick-off. The referee today is Ravshan Irmatov of Uzbekistan, taking charge of his 10th World Cup game in three tournaments.
The teams are out at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium for the national anthems.
Messi set a personal record for the number of shots he has attempted in a single World Cup game against Iceland, firing the ball at the net an impressive 11 times. He of course failed to score – and as such has not had a goal in 21 successive World Cup shots.
Croatia defender Vedran Corluka is on the bench for his country today, but if he gets on, will make win his 100th cap for his country, becoming the second member of their World Cup squad to do so after Luka Modric.
The pair have met on four previous occasions, with Messi scoring the winner on their last encounter in a 2014 friendly – but they have only clashed once at the World Cup. They faced off in the group stages of France 1998; Mauricio Pineda’s strike proved to be the goal to give Argentina the victory.
Dalic’s side weren’t the most convincing of winners despite their 2-0 margin against Nigeria, relying on a penalty and an own goal – and the coach has faced further difficulties off the pitch this week in the shape of striker Nikola Kalinic, who has been sent home from the World Cup. Kalinic refused to come on off the bench Croatia’s Group D clash, as he had previously against Brazil in a warm-up friendly, citing a back issue; no other player has been allowed to be called up to the squad in his place.
Sampaoli’s team thought they were headed for victory over minnows Iceland when Maximiliano Meza was fouled for a penalty in the 64th minute with the scores locked. Yet captain Lionel Messi saw his tame effort saved by Hannes Halldorsson and La Albiceleste couldn’t find a way through for the rest of the game, leaving Argentina winless in their opening game of a World Cup for the first time since Italy 1990 when they were shocked by Cameroon. Can they offer a roaring riposte today in Nizhny Novgorod?
Subs: Josip Pivaric, Vedran Corluka, Dominik Livakovic, Marko Pjaca, Lovre Kalinic, Tin Jedvaj, Mateo Kovacic, Andrej Kramaric, Duje Caleta-Car, Filip Bradaric, Milan Badelj
CROATIA (4-5-1): Danijel Subasic; Domagoj Vida, Ivan Strinic, Sime Vrsaljko, Dejan Lovren; Marcelo Brozovic, Ivan Perisic, Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric, Ante Rebic; Mario Mandzukic
Subs: Franco Armani, Paulo Dybala, Ever Banega, Cristian Ansaldi, Marcos Rojo, Lucas Biglia, Gonzalo Higuain, Ángel Di Maria, Federico Fazio, Nahuel Guzman, Giovani Lo Celso, Cristian Pavon
ARGENTINA (3-4-3): Willy Caballero; Nicolas Tagliafico, Nicolas Otamendi, Gabriel Mercado; Eduardo Salvio, Javier Mascherano, Enzo Perez, Marcos Acuna; Maximiliano Meza, Lionel Messi; Sergio Aguero
As for Croatia, they make just the one alteration to the team who claimed a two-goal victory over Nigeria in Kaliningrad; striker Andrej Kramaric is dropped to the bench as manager Zlatko Dalic favours a stockier midfield, with Marcelo Brozovic the man to replace him.
Team news now as we await kick-off and Argentina have switched it up for their penultimate game of the group stages as they look to bounce back from their lacklustre first-game showing. Angel Di Maria is among a trio of players dropped from the starting XI, alongside Marcos Rojo and Lucas Biglia, as Jorge Sampaoli opts to ring the changes; they are replaced by Marcos Acuna, Gabriel Mercado and Enzo Perez respectively.
Hello and welcome to live coverage of the 2018 World Cup in Russia as Argentina and Croatia meet in the third game of Group D at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium. La Albiceleste are looking to put themselves in the driving seat for the knockout stages after being held to a draw by Iceland in their opening clash – but with their opponents looking to secure a place in the round of 16 on the back of their defeat in Nigeria, will the 2014 runners-up have enough to get the three points?