- Croatia put three past Argentina to advance to last 16
- With one point to their name, La Albiceleste stand on brink of elimination
Croatia advanced to the Round of 16 for the second time in their history after cruising to victory over Argentina. With Lionel Messi lacking in inspiration, *La Albiceleste *paid for their defensive frailties on a dark night and are now on the verge of exiting the competition.
The eastern Europeans were content to sit back in the first half, aware that Jorge Sampaoli’s side had the greater need to attack. Though Argentina tried to take the initiative and enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, they were unable to convert it into chances, with Sergio Aguero and a visibly ill-at-ease Messi largely anonymous. And when the South Americans finally carved out a clear-cut opportunity, Enzo Perez contrived to shoot wide with the goal gaping.
Showing more ambition after the restart, the Croatians promptly revealed the shortcomings of their opponents’ rearguard. A penetrating presence on the right, Ante Rebic capped a fine display by capitalising on a Willy Caballero error with a superb finish.
Sampaoli turned to his bench for an immediate solution, and though Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala and Cristian Pavon all showed flashes of inspiration after coming on, there was to be no revival. Taking full advantage of Argentina’s lack of composure at the back, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic both scored to compound their misery.
Team reporter analysis
A nightmare! That is what the match became for an Argentina side that lacked both the invention and the desire to turn their night around after falling behind to a costly goalkeeping error. Their hopes of reaching the knockout phase are now hanging by a thread.
Another night to remember for Croatia. Argentina began the evening full of intent and dominating possession. Ante Rebic’s volley from a goalkeeping error was followed by goals from Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, as the Vatreni recorded a first ever World Cup win over South American opposition. Coach Zlatko Dalic had described the match as a test for this generation of players, one they passed with ease.
Budweiser Man of the Match
Luka Modric did more than just score a stunning goal to put his side 2-0 up. Taking on a playmaking role, he showcased his class in orchestrating Croatia’s attacks.
In their four previous world finals meetings with South American sides, Croatia experienced nothing but defeat, while their only goal in those four outings was an own goal in the 2014 encounter with Brazil. Make no mistake, this was a historic night for the Croatians.