Chennai: Argentina are almost on the plane back home after suffering a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Croatia that has put them on the brink of elimination from the Fifa World Cup in Russia. While the result sealed Croatia’s place in the round of 16, it took the fate of Messi and co. away from their hands.
Even a thumping win against Nigeria in their final league match on Monday might not be enough for Argentina, who only have a point from two matches and a -3 goal difference. The South American giants were dire throughout and their captain Lionel Messi did nothing of note in the crucial match.
If it was Belo Horizonte where Brazil unravelled with a 7-1 defeat against Germany at the 2014 World Cup, for Argentina it was Nizhny Novgorod in 2018. The Albiceleste hardly put a foot right against Croatia whose midfielders Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic raised their game brilliantly in the second half.
Argentina goalkeeper Willy Caballero proved to be their villain early in the second half with a botched-up pass that was hooked home expertly by Croatian forward Ante Rebic. Modric scored an exquisite goal from outside the box before Rakitic added one more at the death to seal Argentina’s fate.
Midfielder Enzo Perez wasted Argentina’s best chance of the match when he shot wide in the first half when the goal was at his mercy. Messi who plays like a superhuman for Barcelona was ordinary from start to finish with a solitary shot on goal. Right from kick-off, he appeared tense and dazed.
While Cristiano Ronaldo, the only contemporary player comparable to Messi, has lit up Russia with four goals in two matches, the Argentine is staring at an international career that is destined to end without a World Cup winners’ medal.