FULL-TIME Argentina 0-3 Croatia
First thing: Messi had a quiet game. One wonders what would have happened had Caballero not given the ball away so cheaply that led to the opener. Argentina may have got something out of the game. Otherwise, going forward, Croatia were imperious. Mandzukic terrorised the Argentine backline while Modric, Rakitic and Perisic performed their roles admirably. Persic was the pick of the three.
The back-three failed miserably and Sampaoli and now, the rest of the world would have seen that this team can’t go anywhere with this defence, which was ripped apart regularly. Take nothing away from the Croats, who won the midfield battle by a mile. Modric and Rakitic, without imposing themselves, took the opposition apart. Modric scored a peach of a goal to put his side through. The golden generation is rocking and they have now scored five goals without conceding one.
As for Argentina, they need Nigeria to do them a favour and open the group up with a draw against Iceland. An Iceland win will mean that it would require Argentina to win their last game against Nigeria and hope that that Croatia beat the World Cup debutants, and handsomely too. A Nigeria win would favour Argentina going into their final group game. Is a group-stage exit imminent?
Now, the Croats twist the knife, cutting open the Argentinian backline into pieces. Kovacic enters the box, controls it and calmly cuts it back for the waiting Rakitic, who thumped the ball into the net. Argentina’s hopes of qualifying for the next round are fading. Croats over the moon.
90+1’ GOAL (Ivan Rakitic) ARGENTINA 0-3 CROATIA
90’ Meza gets the ball from Messi, who did well to slip the ball between the legs of the Argentinian defenders. He skips past three plays before Vida’s lunge ended the move.
86’ OOH! Hits the bar! Yet another thunderbolt and this time, it was Rakitic who wicked bend from the free-kick left Caballero flat-footed. The ball thundered off the frame of the goal. Meanwhile, Acuna goes in the book
85’ A melee breaks out after Otamendi is booked for a clearance that hit Rakitic, who was lying on the floor.
A thumping strike by Modric and probably a killer blow for Argentina. The Real Madrid man took a touch, pushes the ball forward to find that inch of space and let’s out a canon. Caballero has no chance and the ball is buried in the back of the net.
79’ GOAL (Luca Modric) ARGENTINA 0-2 CROATIA
77’ Argentina continue to throw men forward. Perisic broke away on the counter but a foul was given against the Inter Milan winger for what appears to be a push at the back on Tagliafico.
76’ There are lot of boos from the fans and protests from the Croat players. Rakitic is injured after a clash with Otamendi. The Argentinian attackers wheel away before the referee stops play. It’s getting a little tense and even Messi is losing his head a little.
73’ Dybala lets in a shot at the edge of the area, cutting in and the ball goes into row r.
71’ Mascherano is brushed off the ball easily by Mandzukic. There was a promising attack that was building up. Argentina were once again poor at the back, failing to clear.
68’ Argentina continue to be tentative at the back. Croatia meanwhile, are happy playing keep-ball. The men in blue and white need inspiration. They have four outright attackers and may be light in midfield.
PAULO DYBALA is on, off goes Enzo Perez.
66’ Vrasaljko goes into the book after a bad tackle on the back of Enzo Perez. Croats have lost their discipline somewhat.
65’ Mandzukic nearly gets his team’s second from a close-range shot after Perisic found with a through ball from a tight area. His shot, though, hit the side-netting.
63’ Chaos in the Argentina box but they still can’t get the ball into the net. Messi hits it straight at the goalkeeper after a cut-back not too far away from the goal by Higuain. Messi hits it straight at the goalie.
62’ Messi bursts through the middle with a powerful run and finds Pavon. The attack fizzles out.
60’ More drab passes from the Argentinians and this time, it is Mascherano who can’t find a teammate. The ball goes out of play.
58’ Argentina fans continue be in full volume urging their team on. There are some pensive faces in the crowd. Croatia have the ball and Argentina have played a couple of rubbish passes.
55’ Suddenly, Croatia have burst to life and Perisic wins a corner after making a powerful run on the right. Now, Kramaric replaces Rebic, who is clearly struggling.
What have you done, Cabellero? The goalkeeper tried to be cute and tried a chip over Rebic but it went nowhere. It ended up being shooting practice for Rebic, who volleyed it home with aplomb. What a finish!
53’ GOAL! ARGENTINA 0-1 CROATIA (REBIC)
52’ SHOT! Aguero wheels away from the Croatian backline and shoots straight at Subasic. First decent goalscoring opportunity in a long time.
50’ YELLOW CARD - Mercado goes in the book for a cynical foul on Rekic. This was after Salvio had missed his sliding challenge.
48’ Scrappy so far from both teams as another slew of fouls disrupt the flow of the game. Messi is still not involved much in the game.
45’ Two fouls from Argentina to start proceedings in the second half. Just as we type that, Mandzukic makes a foul at left-wing.
The players are making their way on the pitch. Can we have some goals please...s
Half-time: Argentina 0-0 Croatia
An enthralling half. Croatia look deadly on the break. Argentina looking shaky at the back may also have played a part in it. Barring the first fifteen minutes, Messi has been largely anonymous. Mandzukic and Enzo Perez had glorious chances to score goals for their respective teams.
45+1’ Brilliant play from Perisic, winning the ball in the Argentinian defence and making a surging run. The Inter Milan winger then puts Rebic, who had acres of space in front of him but the latter made a mess of it, shooting it well over the bar. Credit to the referee for playing advantage during the build-up.
43’ Vrasaljko this time is clutching his feet and replays shows that Perez clipped him from the back. The referee decides against using a card, though as the Argentinian had slipped.
40’ Vrsaljko makes a superb tackle on Aguero after he was given a through ball on the left by Messi. The attack ends with Mascherano making another foul.
38’ YELLOW CARD - Rebic gets a yellow for a clattering studs-up challenge on Perez. Sampaoli is furious on the touchline and calls for a VAR.
35’ Mercado is down injured and needs treatment after a clash for a high-ball with Rebic. The Croat gets a telling off from the referee. Mercado is out on the sidelines at the moment.
34’ Argentina now taking their time during the build-up. They had a good two-three minute spell as they were passing out from the back.
31’ MISS! This time Mandzukic ghosts in and meets the end of a superb right-win cross by Vrsaljko. He missed the target by a foot as the flag stayed down. That was a genuine opportunity for Croatia.
29’ WHAT A MISS! Enzo Perez, you’ve got to hit the target. Croatia make their first error at the back as Acuna slips away and makes a timely cut-back. Subasic was out of his line and Perez had an open goal gaping in front of him.
28’ Argentina have seen more of the ball but that has not translated into clear-cut chances. Croatia, to their credit, have hardly looked frazzled. Messi on the ball....
25’ Strinic clears the ball with Messi preying in behind him. Aguero made a powerful run on the left flank and there was a cross off a deflection.
21’ Acuna makes a powerful run down the left but his final ball is poor. However, his cross clipped the top of the bar before it went out. Mandzukic is getting some treatment on the tunnel.
20’ What are Argentina doing at the back? Tagliafico nearly played a fatal back-pass to Mandzukic but luckily for the Argentinian, a foul was called. They nearly gift the ball back again.
17’ Argentina continue to be slightly a tad ragged at the back. The Argentinian fans are incensed as Perez falls over after a challenge. The referee, seconds later, penalises Mascherano for a foul on Modric. The Argentinian players surround the referee.
15’ Enzo Perez and Rakitic come together with a sliding tackle and it’s the Croatian is the one who is injured. A bit of an altercation kicks off between the two teams but nothing serious.
12’ Messi gets into the game for the first time. The Barcelona man can’t get his foot to the end of chip inside the box while Aguero’s shot is cleared on time.
10’ Croatia create another opening but Mercado makes a timely intervention with his head to clear the ball. The Europeans are looking dangerous on the counter.
8’ Now, Mandzukic is on the floor clutching his feet after Tagliafico clips him from behind. Plenty of intensity from both teams.
6’ Otamendi is writhing on the floor after Mandzukic makes a late clip on his boot. The defender is up on his feet.
4’ SAVE – Perisic tests Argentina with a surging run and shoots one goalwards. Caballero does well to gets his fingertips on it. Croatia have a corner. Argentina need to be watchful.
3’ The Argentinian fans making a deafening wall of noise in Nizhny. Argentina seeing a lot of the ball but not doing much with it so far.
2’ Argentina launch their first attack with Otamendi floating one from the deep. Mesa can’t get to the end of the ball but it goes out of play.
We are ready for kick-off....
These teams play their second World Cup match. Their first match ended with the Albiceleste running out 1-0 winners in 1998.
Fun fact: Mascherano will be making his 18th World Cup appearance, Messi his 17th. Mascherano joins Mario Kempes. Highest on the Argentina list is Diego Maradona with 21.
Willy Caballero; Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi, Nicolas Tagliafico; Enzo Perez, Javier Macherano, Eduardo Salvio, Marcos Acuna; Maximiliano Meza, Sergio Aguero, Lionel Messi
Danijel Subasic; Sime Vrsaljko, Ivan Strinic, Domagoj Vida, Dejan Lovren; Ivan Rakitic, Marcelo Brozovic, Ante Rebic, Luka Modric (capt), Ivan Perisic; Mario Mandzukic
Hello and welcome to the live updates of what promises to be a mouth-watering clash between two top teams in Argentina and Croatia. Lionel Messi is under pressure to deliver after his fellow five-time Ballon d’Or rival Cristiano Ronaldo ran clear to the top of the World Cup goalscoring charts after netting his fourth goal, which game against Morocco.
The Barcelona forward had a game to forget at Moscow, failing to convert a penalty as the two-time world champions drew 1-1 with Iceland in their Group D opener.
Elsewhere, Denmark stayed on course for the last 16 after drawing 1-1 with Australia in the early game of the day. Messi’s teammates have rallied around their superstar captain after his disappointing performance against Iceland.
He is bearing the weight of expectations as Argentina seek a first World Cup trophy since 1986 and is desperate to crown his glittering career with a major international tournament success.
A defeat against the Luka Modric-led Croatians in Nizhny Novgorod could see Argentina, unthinkably, flirting with a first exit at the group stage since 2002.
(With inputs from AFP)