World Cup 2018: Argentina Team, Predicted Playing XI and Starting Lineup vs Croatia
UPDATE: Argentina announce confirmed lineup
Willy Caballero; Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi, Nicolas Tagliafico; Eduardo Salvio, Javier Mascherano, Perez, Maximiliano Meza, Acuna; Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero
Argentina XI vs Croatia:
Argentina did not come into the 2018 World Cup as favourites and their first match of the tournament showed why. Iceland may have been playing their first ever World Cup match but they proved to be more than just underdogs in a 1-1 draw.
La Albiceleste have a lot of work to do if they are to qualify for the knockout stages and go further in the tournament. While reaching the Round of 16 is quite possible, advancing beyond that is not assured.
The South American nation were too reliant on talisman Lionel Messi to make things work against the Strákarnir Okkar and they showed it was possible to keep the Barcelona forward quiet by man-marking him and denying him any space whatsoever.
Messi may have scored 44 goals this season (34 in the league to win the European Golden Shoe) but his missed penalty - saved by Hannes Halldorsson - proved to be instrumental in Iceland coming away with a point on their debut.
Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli has jumped to Messi's defence, though. He told the press that it was unfair to pin ask Messi alone to shoulder the blame for the draw instead of the entire team taking responsibility.
"When we succeed with Argentina, everyone takes credit for it but when Argentina loses, it's always Leo's fault. I think that's quite unfair." - Jorge Sampaoli
Now, Argentina face group toppers Croatia in what will be their toughest game of the group stages.
How will Argentina line up against Croatia?
There is a possibility that Sampaoli could make major changes from the first game - including a change in the formation. Against Iceland, he had gone with a four-man defence. However, he could switch to a back-three for the second game.
Argentina could deploy a 3-4-1-2 formation against Croatia. Willy Caballero will continue in goal while the three-man defence could see Nicolas Otamendi flanked by Gabriel Mercado on the right and Nicolas Tagliafico on the left.
Javier Mascherano and River Plate's Enzo Perez could play in central midfield while the wing-back slots could be given to Eduardo Salvio on the right and Marcos Acuna on the left.
Sampaoli could play Lionel Messi in a no.10 role like he did against Iceland but this time behind two strikers. The presence of an extra man up front could see the Croatian defence think twice before stepping up to mark Messi, thereby giving him space to work his magic. But this will see the creative burden through the middle increase for the Barcelona star.
The two men up front could be Sergio Aguero and Cristian Pavon. European football fans will not know much about Pavon who plays in Argentina's Primera Division with Boca Juniors but he excels across the forward line and will most likely drift wide allowing Messi to make inroads into the box.
This starting lineup will see the likes of Angel Di Maria, Lucas Biglia, Maximiliano Meza, and Marcos Rojo drop to the bench after underwhelming performances against Iceland.
Argentina XI and Formation
Note: This article was updated after the starting lineups were announced.
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