It was a night to forget for Argentina and Lionel Messi, as they crashed to a damaging 3-0 defeat to Croatia at the World Cup in Russia on Thursday.
Croatia booked their spot in the last-16 with the victory, leaving Iceland in second place above Argentina but level on a point apiece ahead of their game with Nigeria on Friday.
After two disjointed, lacklustre and overall disappointing displays, Argentina have it all to do now to progress, while it will also be out of their hands as they hope for favourable results elsewhere.
It’s also been a frustrating tournament thus far for Messi on an individual level, as after missing a penalty against Iceland, he wasn’t able to have a positive influence against Croatia either.
In his defence, most of that had more to do with the defensive work of Croatia to nullify his threat and cut off the service, and that’s exactly what Luka Modric has pinpointed as being key to keeping Messi silent.
“This result and Argentina’s poor display was due to our good game, our compact block all over the pitch, particularly when we didn’t have the ball,” he said, as quoted by ESPN. “We cut off Messi, stopped him receiving the ball. He’s their most dangerous player.
“Messi is an incredible player but he can’t do everything alone. The way we played helped today too. We closed the gaps so [Javier] Mascherano couldn’t pass the ball in the beginning and then later when we got our rhythm of the game we played very well.”
Evidently, Croatia were well drilled and organised to ensure that they could nullify Messi and cut off the supply chain to prevent him from getting into dangerous positions.
With that in mind, credit must go to coach Zlatko Dalic, while as noted by Modric, the players also deserve a big pat on the back too for being able to carry out his tactics and stay disciplined to get their deserved rewards.