Croatia captain Luca Modric on Thursday revealed his one his team’s key strategies was to cut out the supply to Argentina skipper and talisman Lionel Messi en route to a thumping 3-0 winover the 2014 finalists at Nizhny.

Modric delivered a Man-of-the-Match performance and ran the show from the middle of the park. The Croats cut Argentina open with pin-point counter-attacks that ruthlessly exposed their backline.

“Our team effort throughout (was the key) and particularly in the second half when we had more possession. In the first half when Argentina had the ball we cut off Messi and stopped him getting the ball. We created three clear chances which we missed. But in the second half it opened up and we deserved to win.”

Zlatko Dalic’s men outclassed their opponents in Nizhny Novgorod, leaving Messi and Argentina on the brink of an embarrassing group-stage exit. Modric, though, urged his teammates to keep their foot on the ground.

“Let’s not be euphoric or get ahead of ourselves,” said Real Madrid midfielder Modric, who scored the second goal. “Of course this win will boost our confidence for the next game, and we have shown we can create opportunities, but let’s keep our feet firmly on the ground.

Croatia were the better side for the majority of the match, but missed several first-half chances to break the deadlock, while Argentina midfielder Enzo Perez somehow contrived to miss an open goal.

A horrendous error by Argentina goalkeeper Willy Caballero allowed Ante Rebic to drill in a magnificent 53rd-minute volley, but Croatia coach Dalic insisted that mistake was not the only reason his team won.

“We created three chances in the first half, these were sitters. (Ivan) Perisic in the left channel, (Mario) Mandzukic’s was harder to miss than to score, and Rebic,” he said. “That mistake did open things up for us, but we deserved that goal as it wasn’t our first chance, it was our fourth. We deserved everything we got out of this game.”

(With inputs from AFP)