World Cup 2018: Argentina vs Croatia - 5 players to watch out for
In one of the most exciting group stage fixtures of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Argentina will take on Croatia in their Group D match at the Nizhny Novgorod stadium. Argentina's draw against Iceland in their opener adds a layer of importance to the game as well, as anything other than a win here will bring up serious consequences.
A loss or draw here will not drop Argentina out of the tournament, but it will deal a blow to their status as one of the favourites and complicate their round of 16 draw. If Argentina finish second, they are most likely to face France in the next round, and they surely do not want that.
While the eyes of the world will be clearly on Lionel Messi ahead of this clash, there are several other important players who can have a huge impact on the game. Here's a look at 5 stars to watch out for in this game:
#5 Nicolas Otamendi - Argentina
After a brilliant season with Manchester City, Nicolas Otamendi is now one of the most recognised centre-backs in the world. But with the national team, he never seems to be able to bring out that same edge and tenacity.
Against Croatia, he is certain to have his hands full with the task of keeping Mario Mandzukic in check. The Juventus forward is one of the shrewdest players in the air, and that just happens to be one of Otamendi's weaknesses.
With the defence around him being not the most sturdy, and the defensive midfielders in the last game not helping out much in defence, Otamendi will have to do a little too much here. Croatia will look to bypass the Argentine midfield and find the striker with long balls, and a very, very busy night lies ahead for the defender.
How Jorge Sampaoli's system integrates a defender like Otamendi into the squad will decide how far the team goes. Their attack has all the ingredients for success and still fails at times. Their defence, on the other hand, has only one.