Editorial (June 21, 2018) – Argentina is in a situation they never thought they would be when FIFA drew for the World Cup group stage.
The whole country expected an accessible run to the Round of 16, but they ended up with a heartbreaking 0-3 defeat to Croatia and are hoping for some results to still have a chance to advance.
Croatia headed to Round of 16 for the first time since 1998, Argentina face elimination
This is not a new situation for Argentina: In the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier they were close to being eliminated but Lionel Messi rescued them in the last matchday with a hat-trick.
This time they are in a worse situation, however, with the Barcelona striker seems uninspired, lacking leadership, and not making a huge effort to help Argentina wins.
Messi never appeared and didn’t carry his country this time. We all know that if Messi is not at his peak Argentina won’t have a great tournament and the 1-1 draw against Iceland and now the 0-3 loss to Croatia proves it.
Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli made three changes in comparisons with the match against Iceland. He left Angel Di Maria, Marcos Rojo, and Lucas Biglia on the bench this time and started Gabriel Mercado, Marcos Acuña, and Maximiliano Meza
Juventus player Paulo Dybala also had his first minutes in a World Cup tournament, he entered in the 70th minute to the pitch but was unable to make an impact as he kicked the ball above the crossbar in his first and only chance to score.
Sampaoli put Willy Caballero again as the goalkeeper instead of Franco Armani and he paid the price after Caballero committed a mistake that led Croatia’s first goal in the second half.
Armani was the best goalkeeper in the Argentinean league this season but it looks like Sampaoli does not trust him as the starter. Argentina facing elimination is the result of the terrible decisions of Sampaoli and the awful perform the players have had since the World Cup qualifiers.
Croatia’s midfield was too much for the Argentinians. Luka Modric and Rakitic put a performance that didn’t let Sampaoli’s side do anything.
Modric proved why he is one of the best midfielders in the tournament as he retained the ball and defended when his team needed it. He scored from outside the box to close out a magnificent individual effort.
In the other hand, Rakitic knew exactly when he had to deliver a ball to the striker, having one of his best performances with the Croatian uniform scoring the last goal at the stoppage time.
The Croatians avoided Javier Mascherano and Enzo Perez could distribute the ball to Messi or Aguero. Either Maxi Meza and Acuña made any possible thing to increase Argentina’s level.
Argentina will face a win or go-home game against Nigeria on June 26. This could be the first elimination for the South American club in a World Cup group stage since 2002.
Croatia is first in Group D and headed to the Round of 16 for the first time since 1998. They failed to reach the knockout stage in their last four World Cup appearances.
Croatia will face off Iceland on June 26.