It is always sad to see a great football power struggle at a World Cup, but that is exactly what is happening to Argentina at World Cup 2018.
La Albiceleste suffered a 3-0 defeat against Croatia on Thursday night in their second Group D. The defeat means that the South American giant’s future at the competition is now out of their hands.
The win for Croatia means that Zlatko Dalic’s side cruise through to the knockout stages. Their next aim will go through to the last 16 as group winners, which looks highly likely at this point.
Croatia just too clever for Argentina
The first half was very tight. However, Croatia showed their experienced and intelligence throughout the game. It may have taken a goalkeeping howler from Argentina goalkeeper Willy Caballero to gift Ante Rebic the opening goal, but from then on the Eastern European side were brilliant.
The brains trust in the middle of the park of Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic produced a masterclass in how to control a midfield, even stamping out the threat of an off-colour Lionel Messi.
Not only did both get on the scoresheet, they used the ball intelligently, dictated play and were the key to the win. The pair put their Argentinian counterparts in the centre of the park to shame.
If the pair was playing for Argentina, then the likes of Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain will have enjoyed far more joy on the night.
Argentina just not at the races
If Argentina were a race horse they would have been out down by now, their displays in Russia have been that bad. The team has lacked defensive solidity, energy and any form of creativity.
They were always going to struggle against such a strong team as Croatia. The fact that Messi had such little of the ball against Croatia was a testament to their clever defensive play and the lack of quality from the forward’s teammates.
I wrote in an article yesterday that Messi needed help from his teammates. However, it seems they have proven about as much help as a chocolate teapot to their star.
Very different emotions
This World Cup has produced very different emotions for Croatian and Argentinian fans. Croatia headed into this tournament with a well-drilled, highly experienced team who would have fancied their chances of getting out of the group.
However, Dalic’s side has now safety qualified and the fans can dream of making the latter stages of the competition, just as they did in their first ever World Cup back in 1998.
Some Argentina fans entered this World Cup fearing the worst, simply because there were too many question marks surrounding their team. Many of those fears have come true on the pitch.
The South American giants know that they need to beat Nigeria on Tuesday by a big margin and hope that other results go their way in the group. It seems unlikely at the minute, as La Albiceleste look like they are running on empty, and have very little left to give the competition.
Will Argentina still make it through to the last 16?