World Cup: Argentina v Croatia

Lionel Messi and co are under some pressure while Croatia can book a last 16 place

Ruaidhrí Croke Thu, Jun 21
LIVE: World Cup: Argentina v Croatia

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  • 18:14

    Good evening and welcome to what could be the Lionel Messi Show. Argentina's main man has the hopes of a nation on his shoulders after their opening game draw with Iceland. Croatia come into this encounter in Nizhny Novgorod off the back of a 2-0 opening day win over Nigeria and with the opportunity of booking their place in the last-16 as well as leaving Argentina in serious trouble.

    I'm Ruaidhrí Croke and I'll be with you for the evening while Keith Duggan is stationed in Nizhny Novgorod to bring you reports and reaction. You can get involved by using the 'Contact Us' button at the top of the blog or you can get me on Twitter @Ruaidhri_Croke.

    Team news and build-up on the way!

  • 18:23

    So,  Jorge Sampaoli has made three changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Iceland. Angel Di Maria, Marcos Rojo and  Lucas Biglia make way as Marcos Acuna, Gabriel Mercado and Enzo Perez come into the side.

    For Croatia there just one switch from the team that beat Nigeria 2-0 with Inter Milan's  Marcelo Brozovic coming in for  Andrej Kramaric.

    Argentina:  Caballero, Mercado, Otamendi, Tagliafico, Salvio, Mascherano, Perez, Acuna, Messi, Aguero, Meza.

    Croatia:  Subasic, Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic, Rakitic, Brozovic, Rebic, Modric, Perisic, Mandzukic.

    If you want to get to know both sides better you can read our team profiles below.

    Can Croatia live up to their dark horse status?

    Lionel Messi must carry Argentina to World Cup glory

  • 18:33

    Our man in Nizhny has been investigating a very interesting city that was closed to outsiders until 1989.  

    There are no views of the Volga river from the high-rise windows around Gagarina Prospekt, and the only reason that visitors venture this far back into the city is to walk through the apartment of Andrei Sakharov.

    You can read his dispatch here: Nizhny Novgorod letter: A city that came in from the cold

    Yesterday he attended Argentina training where the spectre of Messi's missed penalty in the first game still hangs over the side who are now feeling the pressure, none more so than Messi himself: Lionel Messi's missed penalty hangs over Argentina

  • 18:39

    The pressure on Messi at Argentina is a unique type of pressure. He'a always lived under the cloud of people saying he doesn't quite do it for his country, despite the fact that he has performed heroics on many occasions.

    Yesterday his mother had to come out on national television to defend her son and say that he cares just as much about his country as anyone.

    Meanwhile, in the Argentina camp a barbecue was organised on Sunday for Father's Day but Messi stayed in his room alone. He's certainly feeling it.

    This evening he has the chance to answer all those critics and carry his side towards the last 16.

  • 18:51

    Just 10 minutes until kick off now. Croatia could really lay down a marker with a victory here and they certainly have the capabilities to do so.  

    Argentina are absolutely spoiled with talent and also have the like of Higuain, Dybala and Di Maria to come off the bench. Despite that it is just all Messi, Messi, Messi.  

    Yesterday Javier Mascherano said that he hopes they can live up to Messi's standard. That's Champions League-winning, world famous Javier Mascherano saying that. Surely there's something wrong there.

  • 18:57

    National anthems done. We're ready to go!

  • 19:00
    1 min: We're underway in Nizhny! (Argentina 0-0 Croatia)
  • 19:03
    3 mins: Argentina have very much started in this 3-4-3 formation with Aguero right through the middle and Messi just off him.  (Argentina 0-0 Croatia)
  • 19:05

    5 mins: Chance for Croatia!

    Perisic forces a save from Caballero. A long ball forward found it's way to the feet of the Inter Milan man who moved into the box on the left hand side and fired a shot across goal with his left foot but Caballero was a match for it, touching it around the post for a corner which came to nothing.  (Argentina 0-0 Croatia)

  • 19:07
    7 mins: Bit of a stoppage here as Otamendi is treated following a late tackle by Mandzukic. He's alright now and Argentina move forward again.  (Argentina 0-0 Croatia)
  • 19:10

    10 mins: Tagliafico lives up to his reputation as an Argentinean defender by getting Mandzukic straight back for the late tackle on Otamendi. It's going to be that sort of game.

    Croatia get a free kick on the halfway line and work it forward with Rakitic. He plays it to Strinic at the bac post who crosses first time but the Argentine defence deal with it.  (Argentina 0-0 Croatia)

  • 19:13
    12 mins: Argentina work it well down the left and feed Acuna. From 25 yards out he flicks a ball over the Croatia defence first time where Messi runs onto it but it's just out of reach of his outstretched leg and Subasic gathers.  (Argentina 0-0 Croatia)
  • 19:16

    16 mins: Argentina have had the better of the ball so far but it's been a quiet enough start to the game. There's so much at stake here for the South Americans that they'll be terrified of making a mistake.

    Croatia have a free kick inside the Argentine half which Rakitic will take.  (Argentina 0-0 Croatia)

  • 19:18
    17 mins: A poor ball in is easily cleared and Argentina can attack. However, their passing is poor and Croatia regain posession.  (Argentina 0-0 Croatia)
  • 19:18
  • 19:21
    21 mins: Argentina look dodgy in possession at the back. A poor pass almost caught them out on the edge of the box as Mandzukic got his foot to it but Tagliafico managed to win a free kick and they could clear.  (Argentina 0-0 Croatia)
  • 19:24
    24 mins: Argentina are playing a seriously risky game at the back with their short passing. Otamendi looks like an accident waiting to happen and just now he's had to put his foot through the ball to clear. If Croatia press a bit higher they could catch them out.  (Argentina 0-0 Croatia)
  • 19:26
    27 mins: When the South Americans do manage to get it up to the front three they look very dangerous. Aguero just went down the left, beating two Croatian defenders but his chipped cross to the back post was put behind for a corner.  (Argentina 0-0 Croatia)
  • 19:27
    28 mins: What a dreadful corner that was. Messi's delivery barely comes into play, hitting the side netting and letting Croatia off the hook.  (Argentina 0-0 Croatia)
  • 19:31

    30 mins: What a chance for Argentina!

    And it came from a series of Croatian errors. A chipped ball down the left wing for Aguero bounced its way past two Croatian defenders. Subasic came out of his ball to gather but Strinic got there first, diverting it right across his own goal where Perez ran onto it with the goal empty and at his mercy ... and put it wide!

    What a dreadul miss that was after some scrappy errors which have summed the game up so far.  (Argentina 0-0 Croatia)

  • 19:34

    33 mins: What a chance for Croatia!

    That's an opener missed for both sides in the space of two minutes. Rebic cut in from the right and delivered a lovely ball to the back post where Mandzukic was coming around completely unmarked. The ball landed paerfectly on his head just six yards out but he tried to glance it in at the near post instead of heading it back across goal and he managed to nod it wide.

    It should be 1-1, as it is it's 0-0.  (Argentina 0-0 Croatia)

  • 19:38
    38 mins: It's been quite scrappy so far really. Both sides have missed excellent chances and both have made terrible mistake as well. Aguero has had just seven touches so far, at least seven fewer than any of his teammates. We may be seeing changes at half time.  (Argentina 0-0 Croatia)
  • 19:40
    40 mins: Terrible tackle from Rebic on Salvio and the Argentine is really lucky to come away intact. The Croatian stamped down on his left leg and received a yellow card for his troubles which definitely could have been a red.  (Argentina 0-0 Croatia)
  • 19:44
    43 mins: It's all getting very niggly now. Rebic has just committed another foul and is going to have to calm down or he'll be seeing red. Both sides need half time here.  (Argentina 0-0 Croatia)
  • 19:45
    44 mins: Another terrible tackle, this time from Perez on Vrsaljko, leads to a free kick but no yellow card despite the Argentine's foot catching the Croatian halfway up his shin. This is turning fairly ugly now.  (Argentina 0-0 Croatia)
  • 19:47
    HALF TIME: Argentina 0-0 Croatia
  • 19:47

    Well, that was scrappy. And it could be 1-1. As it is it's 0-0 and a red card for either side does not look far off - some of the tackles have been shocking. Messi has barely been involved so far, as has Aguero and it might only be a matter of time before we see Dybala. Let's hope for some more quality in the second half at least and less of the niggle which is stopping the game every few minutes.

  • 20:03
    46 mins: We're back underway in Nizhny! (Argentina 0-0 Croatia)
  • 20:04
    47 mins: No changes for either side. Surprising not to see Dybala on yet. (Argentina 0-0 Croatia)
  • 20:08

    50 mins: Theeee baaaallll issss mooooooving sooooo sloooooowwwwllyyyy.

    Slow build-up play preceeds a poor tackle or swing of an elbow, a dramatic fall and a free kick. That's been this game so far.  (Argentina 0-0 Croatia)

  • 20:09

    51 mins: Rebic breaks out of defence with a bit of attacking intent but is mercilessly hacked down by Mercado in the most Argentinean-style foul you have ever seen.  

    It looks like we're going to have a change for Argentina but it's not Dybala. Instead, Higuain is stripped and ready to go.  (Argentina 0-0 Croatia)

  • 20:10



  • 20:13

    56 mins: What a weird goal. A finish of absolute quality came about from a moment of absolute horror.

    A long Croatian ball forward was flicked on to no one by Mandzukic and rolled through to Caballero. Rebic trotted towards him with a sort of half-arsed attempt at putting on some pressure. Caballero then decided he wanted to lob the ball over Rebic to Otamendi but instead flicked it straight up in the air to the Croatian defender.

    Rebic set himself perfectly and fired a thunderbolt of a volley with his right foot past the stricken Caballero into the top corner. What a finish. What a weird goal and Argentina are in serious trouble now.  (Argentina 0-1 Croatia)

  • 20:15

    58 mins: Argentina respond by taking off Aguero and replacing him with Higuain while Pavon comes on for Salvio.

    Croatia also make a switch with Kramaric replacing goalscorer Rebic just minutes after his stunning finish.  (Argentina 0-1 Croatia)

  • 20:16
    59 mins: Argentina must score to keep their fate in their own hands. A loss here and an Iceland win over Nigeria tomorrow would mean that an Iceland-Croatia draw in the final round of group games would send them both through.  (Argentina 0-1 Croatia)
  • 20:17
    60 mins: Messi has made just 15 passes in the first hour of the game. He's been fairly non-existent and a long way off the standard of Ronaldo who has now dragged his team through two games.  (Argentina 0-1 Croatia)
  • 20:19
  • 20:20
    62 mins: Messi finally gets on the ball and moves forward with intent. He feeds Perez on the right who looks to cross low first time but it's cleared. Croatia have built a wall here and I'm not sure even Messi can break through.  (Argentina 0-1 Croatia)  
  • 20:22

    64 mins: Chance for Argentina!

    And what a chance that was! Meza attacked down the left and fed Higuain on the outside who had ran in behind the Croatian defence. He got to the end line and pulled it back for the onrushing Meza who shot first time from 12 yards with his left foot but Subasic was equal to it. Messi got the follow up but the angle was too tight and he couldn't bundle it in.

    It's like a switch has been flicked in the Argentinean team now and suddenly they're zipping the ball around.  (Argentina 0-1 Croatia)

  • 20:26
    68 mins: Dybala finally enters the fray with Perez going off. The niggly tackles continue with Dybala welcomed to the game via the studs of Rakitic.  (Argentina 0-1 Croatia)
  • 20:29

    71 mins: It's all Argentina now as they desperately press for the equaliser. Croatia, however, are good at getting men behind the ball and they currently have all 11 of them doing so. Dybala has an effort from the right hand side but it flies well over.

    They still have plenty of time, no need to be shooting wildly just yet.  (Argentina 0-1 Croatia)

  • 20:31
    74 mins: Argentina look to break but Messi is cynically chopped down once again. He's getting more and more frutrated but there surely has to be a moment of magic in him.  (Argentina 0-1 Croatia)
  • 20:33
    76 mins: Rakitic is down in the middle of the pitch but Argentina have no intention of kicking it out. However, the referee eventually blows his whistle to stop the play. It's getting even more niggly now as Argentina become more and more desperate.  (Argentina 0-1 Croatia)
  • 20:35

    78 mins: Argentina have a corner.  

    There's pushing and shoving on the bench. It's getting tasty.  (Argentina 0-1 Croatia)

  • 20:36
    79 mins: The corner is cleared, Acuna gets it back in but it's cleared again. Croatia are dealing with everything Argentina throw at the at the moment.  (Argentina 0-1 Croatia)
  • 20:37



  • 20:39

    82 mins: With that, Argentina's World Cup hopes could be over.

    What a goal from Modric, and a classic Modric goal at that. He picked it up 30 yards out, checked inside, checked back outside onto his right foot and sent a pearler of a shot around the defender, curling back inside the post and burying in the bottom corner.  

    Croatia are on their way to the last 16 and Argentina are in serious trouble.  (Argentina 0-1 Croatia)

  • 20:41
    83 mins: Kovacic comes in to replace Perisic for Croatia. Sampaoli is practically in tears on the sideline. He looks like a man at the end of his tether and a man ready to lose his job.  (Argentina 0-2 Croatia)
  • 20:42
    84 mins: It's all kicking off!  (Argentina 0-2 Croatia)
  • 20:43

    85 mins: Rakitic was fouled 30 yards out and fell to the ground with the ball rolling loose beside him. Otamendi came steaming out of defence and lamped it into the side of Rakitic's head from about a yard away.

    I seem to remember the same thing happening to Robin Van Persie for Man United and Alex Ferguson saying afterwards that he "could have been killed".

    So let's all be thankful Rakitic is still alive, anyway. He's now standing over the free-kick.  (Argentina 0-2 Croatia)

  • 20:44

    86 mins: And he smacks the bar!

    That was a peach of a free-kick up and over the wall, leaving Caballero for dead and bouncing back out off the bar.  (Argentina 0-2 Croatia)

  • 20:48
    90 mins: Messi sets Meza up on the edge of the box but he delays ... delays some more ... and some more before eventually shooting but it's blocked.  (Argentina 0-2 Croatia)
  • 20:48



  • 20:50

    90+3 mins: Well this is just humiliating now.

    After that chance from Meza, Croatia broke against an Argentina team that were walking and not even attempting to get back. Rakitic shot from distance but it was saved, rebounding to Kovacic who had time to stop on the six yard box and roll it back to Rakitic who passed it into the net from close range.

    This has been an absolute shambles from Argentina.  (Argentina 0-3 Croatia)

  • 20:52

    FULL TIME Argentina 0-3 Croatia!

    Croatia are into the last 16, Argentina need a miracle to avoid elimination!

  • 20:55

    Well what an embarassment that was for Argentina.  

    They were poor from the very start and were deservedly beaten 3-0. Messi never got going but neither did his teammates who looked very very poor.

    Croatia deservedly reach the last 16. Argentina now need Nigeria to get something against Iceland tomorrow and then they themselves need to beat Nigeria in the final game and hope that Croatia beat Iceland.

    Not very likely.

  • 20:58

    So, that's that for day eight of this World Cup which has seen France and Croatia reach the last 16 while Peru have been eliminated and Argentina are on the brink.

    Keith Duggan's report from Nizhny Novgorod will be on our World Cup website soon where you can also find liveblogs, news, analysis, features, player profiles, fixtures, results and much muchb more.

    With that I shall leave you. Thanks for reading, bye!


    Group C: Denmark 1-1 Australia, France 1-0 Peru.

    Group D: Argentina 0-3 Croatia.