Lionel Messi’s World Cup desire was left hanging by way of a thread as Croatia driven into the last of sixteen with a 3-0 rout of Argentina yesterday.
Second-half goals from Ante Rebic, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic sealed a well deserved victory as a weak Argentina were left on the brink of a humiliating first round exit.
The Group D eliminate means Argentina have just one point from two games, meaning they will probably have to defeat Nigeria in their previous game and hope other results go their way to avoid elimination.
Inside the day’s earlier match, France advanced to the round of 16 with a 1-0 win over Peru in a result that also eliminated the Incas from Group C. Inside another match of the identical party, Australia and Denmark performed out a 1-1 attract.
Argentina’s result left Argentinian fans in tears inside the Nizhny Novgorod arena, while Diego Maradona observed from the stands in stunned disbelief.
Croatia required the lead after a horrendous blunder by Argentine goalkeeper Willy Caballero in the 53rd minute, the stopper chipping a measurement right to Rebic who lashed home a thunderous volley.
Real Madrid star Modric then produced an inspiring 80th-minute goal before Messi’s Barcelona team-mate Rakitic completed the scoring after Croatia sliced apart Argentina’s hapless defence in injury time.
The defeat leaves the Argentinians facing an ignominious repeat of their 2002 campaign when they also went out at the girls stage after being likely as possible World Glass winners.
All the attention after the 3-0 defeat will concentrate on Argentina and Messi but it was also the result of a fine performance by Croatia.
A curiously dull and uninspired Argentine show was capped off by Caballero’s mistake if he in some way managed to chip the ball simply a few back yards to Croatia’s Rebic, following a Gabriel Mercado back pass.
Rebic volleyed home with aplomb but veteran Noble will have nightmares for the rest of his days at his mistake — likely to feature in any listing of worst goalkeeping blunders for some time.
And through it all Messi, arguably the world’s best player, remained a peripheral and largely ponderous figure, in brief flashing to life on too few occasions.
Typically the 30-year-old’s dream of successful the World Cup now looks remote.
With all the pre-match attention on Messi it was his Real Madrid counterpart Luka Modric who provided the game’s true flashes of genius.
The Croatian was the one player to find space and amount of time in a bruising face and it also was his moment of magic in the second half which settled the encounter.
Picking the ball up some 25 back yards away from Argentina area, Modric had the option of at least two moves but chose to bide his time before sowing a fantastic shot earlier a hapless Caballero.
Rakitic added a 3 rd when the sport was up for Argentina.
They’d only endangered briefly before to equalise with Meza and Messi almost scrambling in a goal in the sixty fourth minute.
Beyond that Perú looked largely clueless, and increasingly frustrated by Croatia.