Argentina are in danger of being eliminated from the 2018 FIFA World Cup after they suffered a humiliating 0-3 defeat to Croatia in a group D game on Thursday at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.
In a first half that was far and between, La Albiceleste began the game on top; dominating possession and applying pressure on the Croatian goal, but their attack line, led by captain Lionel, misfired as they missed a host of chances.
The Europeans were, however, able to regroup, protected their defence and went into the halftime stronger offensively.
But the Croats produced a magnificent second-half display, which was aided by lackadaisical defending by the South Americans, to waltz through to victory.
Argentina’s goalkeeper, Willy Caballero, while trying to keep possession for his team, attempted to lob the ball over Ante Rebic in his box. But his lob turned to a howler in the 53rd minute as the ball only moved few metres onto the path of Rebic, who slammed the ball past a helpless Caballero.
Captain Luka Modric compounded Argentina’s woes in the 80th minute after he hit a beautiful stunner from 20 yards into the left bottom corner of Caballero’s goalpost.
Ivan Rakitic put the icing on the cake for the Croatians in added time after the Argentine defence failed to clear their lines following his earlier shot on goal, which was saved by Caballero.
The defeat left many Argentine fans at the stadium, including a prominent Diego Maradona, a 1986 World Cup winner, crying profusely even before referee Ravshan Irmatov of Uzbekistan blew the final whistle.
The result means that Croatia has garnered six points from two games and have qualified for the second round of the tournament as only Iceland, who play Nigeria in a 4 pm (Nigerian time) kickoff on Friday, can finish ahead of the Eastern European country in group D.
Meanwhile, with just one point in two games, Argentina will need an unlikely series of results to keep their hopes of progressing from Group D alive.