World Cup 2018: 3 things that went right for Croatia against Argentina
Lionel Messi's dream of laying hands on the FIFA World Cup trophy suffered a huge blow as a rampant Croatian side, led ably by Luka Modric, embarrassed Argentina 3-0 in the sides' second group stage match of the World Cup.
Coming in from a 1-1 draw against first-timers Iceland, not many expected Argentina to be run over like they were - their biggest WC group stage defeat in 60 years.
Post a goalless first-half, Chelsea's goalkeeper Willy Caballero's failure to clear a Gabriel Mercado's back-pass led to the first Croat goal in the 53rd minute. The mistimed clearance was pounced upon by Ante Rebic, who drilled the ball past the Argentine goalkeeper.
The opener gave the European side a much-needed boost while it set the Argentines on the backfoot. The lead was then doubled by Croatia's midfield general Modric, who curled in a long-ranger into the bottom left corner of Caballero's goal in the 80th minute.
The Croatians weren't done though and a counter-attack in the injury time saw Ivan Rakitic grab a well-deserved goal. With this victory, Croatia are now through to the last 16 of the tournament, most probably as the group toppers.
Jorge Sampaoli's side, on the other hand, lacked cohesiveness. The forward line, comprising of few of the best attackers currently in the sport, and the midfielders weren't on the same wavelength.
With their hopes of qualifying to the next hanging by a thread, perhaps worse, the Argentines wouldn't want a repeat of tonight's performance when they play Nigeria in five days. Whereas the Croatians would love to continue their winning run as the tournament enters its next stage.
On that note, let's take a look at three things which the Croatians did right to topple Messi's Argentina over.
#3 Not allowing Argentina a shot on target in the first half
That Argentina's strength lies in their attack is universally known and Croatia managed to nullify exactly that. In an even first half, where both the teams could have gotten onto the scoresheet, Argentina weren't able to test Croatia's custodian Danijel Subasic even once.
There were lousy defensive mistakes made by both the sides but with the likes of Messi and Aguero in the side, the South American side were expected to at least test the goalkeeper, let alone break the deadlock. The best of chances fell to Enzo Perez, who fired wide at an open goal after a miscommunication between Dejan Lovren and Subasic.
Aguero was probably the worst performer tonight and touched the ball on only 16 occasions in his 53-minute stay on the pitch. The dismal first-half performance and an early Croatian goal in the second half didn't pegged the Argentines back and led to their downfall.