Croatia coach: Argentina the 'easiest game for us'
21 June, 2018, 05:14 | Author: Suzanne Horton
Argentina are targeting their first win of the 2018 World Cup when they face Croatia in Group D on Thursday (7pm BST). "You can see this clearly, I don't believe that he doesn't want to play for Argentina".
For reasons hard to fathom, they have looked ponderous and lacking in creative thrust throughout coach Jorge Sampaoli's year in charge despite boasting Messi and other big names like Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria.
Croatia had better fortunes in their opening fixture, cruising past Nigeria with a 2-0 win, but will face a much tougher opponent in Argentina at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium.
'When he has two or three opponents trying to block him, somewhere on the pitch a teammate is free, as happened against Iceland, ' he said.
Miroslav Blazevic's side, though, would finish the championship in third place after defeating Guus Hiddink's Netherlands 2-1, thus matching Portugal's feat in 1966 of winning a bronze medal in a World Cup debut.
"Argentina depends a lot on Messi, although they are a great team in other positions", he told reporters. A surprising 1-1 draw with Iceland - which included a missed Messi penalty - means the South Americans desperately need to win to put their World Cup back on track.
The winners of Group D will meet the runners-up of Group C, meaning a last-16 showdown looms with either France, Denmark, Australia or Peru.
Sampaoli also appealed to Argentines to stop arguing about whether Messi is better or worse than Maradona, who won the World Cup in 1986, and appreciate both men's contributions to their nation's sporting history.
But incredibly, Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi was denied from 12 yards, and Iceland held on for a famous point.
Doing so will allow Modric and Rakitic to have a greater say in the game, specifically given the fact that Argentina themselves may go ahead with an extra midfielder in the form of Banega.
Rakitic and Dalic, full of praise for Messi and Argentina, also said that Croatia will be lifted by playing against them.
Dalic added that he would not make any special plans for Messi as "no single player can stop him". Rakitic said. "The world knows".
"We have to play a ideal match to win", he admitted. "The team will be together when things go well and when things go badly".
But Iran refused to buckle, Carlos Queiroz's men coming close in the final minutes when midfielder Mehdi Taremi headed just over. Iran sits in third with three points in Group B behind Portugal and Spain who each have four points.
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