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Argentina v Croatia: Senior Argentine stars must step up

Cian Carroll | 20 June 2018

A look ahead to the big clash

Argentina and Croatia clash in the second round of fixtures in Group D at the Kaliningrad Stadium on Thursday.

It’s arguably a clash of the two strongest teams of the four teams in this pool. And a lot rides on the result. Neither side can really afford to lose.

And the Coral News Team look ahead to the fixture and a handful of important subplots…

Messi needs a bit of help

Everyone knows this Argentina squad doesn’t have the overall quality of previous tournaments. But the abject nature of their attacking performance against Iceland was surprising.

Yes, Lionel Messi missed a penalty that could have sealed the three points. But the Argentine XI – more often than not – abdicated responsibility.

It’s being reported that La Albiceleste head coach Jorge Sampaoli has seen enough and will ring the changes against Croatia. Expect Marcos Acuna, Enzo Perez, Cristian Pavon and Gabriel Mercado to come into the side.

Is Messi feeling the pressure?

Argentina’s hopes rest on Messi’s shoulders in the same way Portugal’s do with Cristiano Ronaldo.

And although the Coral News Team are loath to make the comparison, it’s apparent that Ronaldo handles that pressure much better.

In fact, he thrives on it whereas Messi looks like he feels compressed by it. Not all the time, obviously. But in games against Iceland, you can nearly see the Barca ace trying too hard to do it all.

Previous meetings

The last time the pair met in a World Cup, it was in France ’98 when Argentina were victorious 1-0. It was a golden era of players for both nations with the likes of Gabriel Batistuta and Davor Suker involved.

Despite La Albicelete’s win, Croatia shocked everyone that year to make it to the semi-finals of the tournament. Only an incredible France team – who went on to win it – would stop them.

There’s a feeling history could repeat itself here with Croatia possessing a squad with far more depth than Sampaoli’s Argentina 23.

Modric and co. last World Cup?

This is a huge game for Croatia. If they lose, it puts them in a situation where they’ll have to beat Iceland in the final group game to qualify.

The likes of Luka Modric (32), Mario Mandzukic (32), and Ivan Rakitic (30) are all likely looking at their last World Cups.

That trio won’t want to leave this Argentina game – and the tournament – wondering what might have been.

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All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing