World Cup 2018: Argentina, Messi on the edge of exit after Croatia defeat
New Delhi : Argentine’s footballer, Lionel Messi dream to win World Cup 2018 was left unfulfilled as Croatia powered into the last 16 with a 3-0 smash of Argentina at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on Thursday night.
Second-half goals from Ante Rebic, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic preserved an earned victory as Argentina was left on the edge of an embarrassing first round exit. The Group D defeat means Argentina have just one point from two games, meaning they will certainly have to beat Nigeria in their last game and expect that other results go along their way to avoid elimination. And, the result left Argentinian fans in tears inside the Nizhny Novgorod stadium, while Diego Maradona looked astonished.
Croatia took the lead after a dreadful mistake by Argentine goalkeeper Willy Caballero in the 53rd minute, the stopper chipping a clearance straight to Rebic who lashed home a booming volley.
Real Madrid star Modric then gave a stimulating 80th-minute goal before Messi's Barcelona team-mate Rakitic completed the scoring after Croatia sliced apart Argentina's unfortunate defence in wrong time.
The defeat leaves the Argentinians facing a humiliating repeat of their 2002 campaign when they also went out at the group stage after being angled as possible World Cup winners.
All the attention after the 3-0 defeat will focus on Argentina and Messi but it was also the result of a fine gaming performance by Croatia team.
A curiously unconscious and dull Argentine display was covered by Caballero's mistake when he somehow managed to chip the ball just a few yards to Croatia's Rebic, following a Gabriel Mercado backpass.
Rebic volleyed home with assurance but veteran Caballero will have to face consequences for his big mistake which is likely to feature in any worst goalkeeping blunders for some time.
Messi, the world's best player, who is 30 now will have to keep aside his dream of winning the World Cup.
Picking the ball up from some 25 yards outside the Argentina area, Modric had the option of at least two passes but chose to bide his time before planting a fantastic shot past a unlucky Caballero.
Rakitic added a third when the game was up for Argentina.
They had only threatened temporarily before then to match Meza and Messi almost messing up in a goal in the 64th minute.
Beyond that Argentina looked naive and frustrated by Croatia. They could have taken the lead in the first half but Enzo Perez ignored the open goal from just 12 yards in the 30th minute.
Croatia went when Mario Mandzukic headed inexplicably wide in the 33rd minute from just three yards.