Argentina 0-3 Croatia: 5 Talking Points, World Cup 2018
Croatia eviscerated a disjointed Argentina side 3-0 in their World Cup Group D encounter to become the fourth team to book their spot in the Round of 16. Three second-half goals from Ante Rebic, Luka Modric, and Ivan Rakitic put to bed any chance of Argentina topping the group.
La Albiceleste are also now in danger of being eliminated in the group stage of the World Cup. Here are the major talking points from the game.
#1 Croatia expose Argentina's three-man defence
One major change Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli made for this game was the switch to three at the back in defence. Playing a 3-4-2-1 to give Lionel Messi some more freedom in attack, the South American side deployed Nicolas Otamendi in central defence with Gabriel Mercado and Nicolas Tagliafico alongside him.
With Eduardo Salvio and Marcos Acuna playing as wing-backs, they had to ensure they never lost possession in dangerous positions when the wing-backs were positioned higher up the pitch. However, all it took was five minutes before Argentina were exposed on the counter-attack.
One of Croatia's strengths is their width and Ivan Perisic managed to cut in behind the defence to get a shot off and could have made it 1-0 if not for Willy Caballero's save.
Even their full-backs were keen to get in on the action and easily found space behind Argentina's defence with Sime Vrsaljko timing his run well to latch on to a diagonal ball and square it to his teammates but fluffed his pass.
Together, the wide forwards and full-backs overlapping constantly helped Croatia stretch Argentina's defence, allowing midfielders such as Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic to use space to dribble or make runs into. Diagonal crosses into the box easily exposed the defence too.
The forwards even pressed the Argentine defenders when they tried to play out from the back, giving Sampaoli and fans a couple of heart-attacks when they were pressed into making what could have turned out to be costly mistakes.