Argentina were only able to manage a draw against newcomers Iceland but will aim to step it up against a dogged Croatia side who overcame Nigeria. Lionel Messi failing to score from the penalty spot has been the talking point so far. Messi has now failed to score with 21 successive shots in World Cup finals, while close rival Cristiano Ronaldo has already got 4 goals to his name. Argentina need a win, and they need it soon.
Jorge Sampaoli will be toiling hard to get one over the Croats. This could very well be Leo Messi’s last World Cup, which means Messi and his teammates are going to have to give it all.
Croatia opened their tournament with a 2-0 win against Nigeria but it certainly didn’t come easy. They have now scored in each of their last five World Cup games, which is their longest such streak in the competition. With captain fantastic Luka Modric leading the squad, the prospect of Croatia winning back-to-back World Cup games for the first time in a decade is not so far-fetched.
Sampaoli should field his strongest line-up as Croatia are not to be taken lightly. The Albiceleste will be aiming to be at their best on the day. Sampaoli could bring in Juventus midfielder Paulo Dybala for Meza in the game. Argentina will start the game on the front foot and aim to gain an early lead against Zlatko Dalic’s me
Caballero, Salvio, Otamendi, Rojo, Tagliafico, Mascherano, Banega, Dybala, Messi, Di Maria, Aguero.
Dalic’s side will now be favourites to top the group but Croatia are far from done. They will certainly not get too complacent at this time. They have shown plenty of potential with the likes of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic playing together and Dalic will certainly start the duo together again. Kovacic could also be given a start ahead of Kramaric.
Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Messi may have had a frustrating game against Iceland, which means the Barcelona striker will be highly motivated to make a difference in this game. He has also scored in each of his two previous appearances against Croatia, including his first ever goal for Argentina in March 2006.
Luka Modric (Croatia)
The Real Madrid midfielder was instrumental in Croatia’s opening game win against Nigeria. He also netted a goal from the penalty spot. Croatia’s performance in the World Cup will largely depend on Luka Modric. The midfielder will once again be pulling the strings in the middle of the park.
Croatia have lost all four of their World Cup meetings with South American sides, once in each of the four tournaments they’ve played in.
Lionel Messi has scored in each of his two previous appearances against Croatia, including his first ever goal for Argentina (March 2006).
Argentina forward Lionel Messi attempted 11 shots in his first game at the 2018 World Cup finals; the most he has attempted in a single match at a World Cup tournament – he failed to score, however.
This is bound to be a tight game and it’s always tricky to predict a big game. It’s going to be well fought for sure and a draw is a big possibility.
Final Score: Argentina 1-1 Croatia