The thousands of dejected and tearful faces painted white and blue in Nizhny Novgorod Stadium immediately after the final whistle vividly summed up the story of this match. Argentina, a team loaded with talented players entered the World Cup with both high hopes and deep-seated worries about the chemistry of its squad. Argentina is in serious trouble and is looking at an early cup exit.
Croatia are deservedly through to the last 16 of the World Cup! They were as magnificent tonight as Argentina were abject. Messi stomps off with a face on; his dream of winning this World Cup is now hanging by a thread.
Croatia are ecstatic. They go to their fans in celebration. They deserve the right to cavort. That’s the team performance of the World Cup so far. With Modric and Rakitic in such good form, and assisted by the likes of Perisic, Mandzukic, Kramaric and Rebic, they could go very deep in this competition.
Argentina by comparison … oh dear. They were dreadful from front to back. Caballero suffered a nightmare of Karius proportions, while Messi was a total non-event. They now need to beat Nigeria in their last game to have any chance of progressing to the next round, and even then their fate won’t be in their own hands. Their fans are accordingly miserable.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR ARGENTINA?
The head coach Jorge Sampaoli is to be blamed. Argentina were lucky to qualify for the World Cup with a disappointing performance at the Qualifiers. The squad hasn’t changed much. Argentina could not get past Iceland and they were sloppy against Croatia. The coach’s job is to see what’s going wrong for the team and fix those problems. Sampaoli has certainly not been able to do that. Sampaoli gets big calls wrong. Morever, he makes two wrong substitutions as soon as Argentina concedes the first goal. Was Sampaoli in his mind!?
As soon as Argentina went down to Croatia, Messi looked like a destroyed man. He could not lift his team up to fight back. Argentina is starting to rely too much on Messi to win matches. There was no synchronization between the defense, midfield and the forward. Argentina has poor defense but a very heavy attacking option. So the best way Argentina can win matches is by outscoring the opponents. But there seemed to be almost no supply of balls from one third to another. The team was totally disorganized.
When Rakitic was about to score the third goal for Croatia, where were the four defenders? They did not even care to try to stop the play. They just gave up. This is not the spirit of football. Argentina needs to show the spirit and get going otherwise they do not deserve to be at the World Cup. Caballero certainly cannot make such mistakes at such a huge stage.
Let’s see what destiny is waiting for this Argentinian side. We hope for a better performance in the next game. No one wants Argentina to take an exit from the World Cup so early.