Argentina vs Croatia: An early test for Messi’s Argentina credentials as favourite
Iceland already proved that this Argentina team is not good enough to win FIFA World Cup 2018 by snatching a 1-1 draw on Group D opening fixture. Jorge Sampaoli side had no clue to how to unlock the Iceland defence and they struggle to get into their penalty area. On the other hand, Iceland had their chances against La Albiceleste’s shaky defense and they reveled. Now, the real credential of Messi’s Argentina to flourish in this World Cup will be tested tomorrow at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium against the dark horse Croatia.
Vatreni started on a winning note with their 2-0 victory over Nigeria. They are under no obligation to win this game but they won’t mind snatching a point from this game, knowing Iceland may challenge them in the last game. They are favourite to win the group if Argentina loses any point today.
Croatia is a strong side with the best midfielders in the world (Real Madrid and Barcelona duo – Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic). Their attack posses a different threat with crosses coming from the wings and a physical Mario Mandzukic waiting in the penalty area to head in.
Andrej Kramaric is also a threat as a second striker. When defenders will be busy blocking Mandzukic’s move, Kramaric can make an impact utilizing the space. And with defence wide open, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic can cause problem with their outside the box shots.
It will be a difficult game for Argentina. Croatia will be already high on confidence after winning their first game against Nigeria, although they didn’t have a good game.
On the other hand, Lionel Messi’s Argentina is in a do or die situation. After drawing against the tournament debutant Iceland, they have to win this game in any condition. Last World Cup runners-up can’t rely on others result in the group. They’ll simply have to win it and Lionel Messi must rise on the occasion.
Messi had an average outing against Iceland with his standards and penalty miss have put a lot of pressure on him to perform in big games. Argentine captain was once again criticized for his performance anxiety in big games. He was trolled being the GOAT (Greatest of all time) who misses penalty.
The comparison between Messi and Ronaldo was also back on international level from club level, considering Ronaldo led Portugal from front scoring a hat-trick against a strong Spanish side, whereas Messi didn’t manage to score a penalty against the World Cup debutant Iceland.
— Selección Argentina (@Argentina) June 19, 2018
Messi will be burdensome more than ever but he needs to rise on the occasion.
“Cometh the hour, cometh the man” best suits to the World’s best players, and we hope Messi lives up to the expectation. We saw Sergio Aguero scoring a brilliant goal against Iceland. Messi must not take the entire burden on his shoulders and tries to do everything himself; there are players who can play the supporting role.
Maximiliano Meza had a great game against Iceland. Aguero proves what he can do if he gets a good ball inside the penalty area. The only weak line in forward line was Angel Di Maria, who had a poor outing against Iceland.
Messi doesn’t need to carry all the burden on his shoulders. He just need to put some confidence in his teammates that they are valuable in this team as well. Right-back Gabriel Mercado was vocal to say to end “Messidependencia”.
He told FIFA.com, “It’s almost impossible not to think about him and not giving him the ball. But in reality, this is a team game and we have to take the responsibility of our part, to free him up and let him be the one finishing the play.”
Messi played lot deeper against Iceland than he usually plays. It left him away from the penalty area and he was busy shooting from outside of the box. We all know he is more lethal from inside the box. We hope to see him more inside the box, so opportunities don’t get wasted and his clinical strikes come into play.
Argentina: Willy Caballero, Eduardo Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi, Nicolas Tagliafico, Eduardo Salvio, Javier Mascherano, Maximiliano Meza, Lucas Biglia, Cristian Pavon, Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero
Croatia: Danijel Subasic, Sime Vrsaljko, Dejan Lovren, Domagoj Vida, Ivan Strinic, Ivan Rakitic, Milan Badelj, Luka Modric, Marcelo Brojovic, Ivan Perisic, Mario Mandzukic
Messi to score a brace and Nicolas Otamendi joining him on the scoresheet from corner ball