Croatia dominate Messi, Argentina in comfortable victory

Croatia inflicted a 3-0 defeat on Argentina thanks to goals from Ante Rebic, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic to put Argentina on the brink of possible elimination.

Jorge Sampaoli’s Argentina was more of graft than finesse in a match Croatia dominated and Argentina lacked creativity with Messi shackled,

Croatia created the first real opening of the match four minutes in, Mandzukic’s smart pass sending Perisic through, but Caballero pushed his shot for a corner kick.

Messi almost got on the end of Enzo Perez’s ball over the top but his control took the ball to the goalkeeper Subasic, while Meza’s shot from Savio’s low cross was blocked by Dejan Lovren.

The rest of the half was all about misplaced passes and defensive lapses by both teams, with Argentina almost profiting on the half hour. Miscommunication between Lovren and Keeper Subasic gifted the ball to Perez/Meza, but the midfielder missed an unguarded net from inside the penalty area.

At the other end, Croatia created their best chance, a free Mario Mandzukic diving header from Vrsaljko’s cross going wide at the back post. The Balkan nation had the last chance of the half, Ante Rebic shooting high and wide from Modric’s defence-splitting pass.

Croatia opened the scoring ten minutes into the second half through a Caballero-wrapped gift. Shortly after a tame Aguero shot was saved, Croatia’s attack broke down and Mercado returned the ball to Cavallero. However, the Chelsea back-up goalkeeper who has had trouble playing out from the back, made a mess of a Mercado’s pass while trying to lob a return pass to the Sevilla defender but Rebic intercepted and volleyed straight into the net for a well deserved Croatia lead.

Argentina could have equalized through the rather well-marshaled Messi, but his Barcelona teammate, Rakitic, blocked his attempt after Meza’s initial shot was saved by Subasic, while Mandzukic shot wide at the other end. The Albiceleste brought on Paolo Dybala and the Juventus playmaker curled wide.

Croatia continued to dominate and it was just a matter of time before the lead was doubled, eventually happening in the 80th minute through captain Modric. The Real Madrid midfielder had not been allowed much time on the ball all night but Rakitic did well to find him outside the area, and the former Tottenham man found a yard of space despite the attention of Otamendi to convert a curling shot to the delight of their fans.

Messi was not given space in the second half and without his creativity and leadership, the Argentines lost their heads and Rakitic nearly got the goal his performance deserved, hitting the bar from a free kick. The 29-year old eventually got the goal his performance deserved in added time. Croatia breaking free on the counter and Kovacic passed to Rakitic to tap into an empty net. Messi disappeared into the dressing room at the end of a 0-3 defeat which was Argentina’s highest in the World Cup for 60 years.