Croatia in dreamland as Messi's Argentina are on the brink of elimination
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Argentina’s hopes of progressing from Group D are in major doubt after slumping to a 3-0 defeat to Croatia in Nizhny Novgorod. Second half strikes from Ante Rebic, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic sealed an impressive victory for a Croatian side which outclassed a disjointed Argentinian team. The hopes of Lionel Messi joining the World Cup pantheon is now looking a long shot as Argentina’s chances of progression have been taken out of their own hands. The result means Croatia qualify for the round of 16 with a game to spare, whilst it also sees Argentina having their worst start to a World Cup campaign since 1974. Despite there being a big build up to this match regarding the amount of star quality on show from both sides, it was difficult to find that quality within the first half, as neither team were able to take their chances. The contest also saw both sides look nervy and at times clueless at the back, as they made a number of needless mistakes which lead to several chances in the final third. It was Croatia who had the first opportunity after five minutes when Ivan Perisic drilled a shot towards the far post, however goalkeeper Willy Cabellero did brilliantly to get down and tip the ball away for a corner. Croatia did really well to block off the spaces in between the lines where the likes of Lionel Messi relish the chance to dictate the play. Argentina’s number 10 found it difficult to get into the game along with strike partner Sergio Aguero, with both players having a combined total of just 27 touches within the first 45 minutes. More defensive errors lead to two big chances midway through the first period – one for either side – but neither were taken. Just before the half hour mark, a floated ball down the line towards Marcos Acuna was not dealt with by either Sime Vrsaljko or Dejan Lovern with the ball eventually falling to Enzo Perez who missed a golden chance from ten yards out as he stroked his effort narrowly wide of the post. Then three minutes later, Mario Mandzukic missed a glorious chance to break the deadlock, as his diving header at the far post was somehow directed wide after Vrsaljko had curled a lovely ball over the top of the disjointed Argentinian backline.
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