Argentina face Croatia at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on Thursday, June 21. Here’s all the information you need to watch.
Argentina, five days after their disappointing 1-1 draw against Iceland, take on Croatia in Nizhny Novgorod in a must-win match for the two-time World Cup winners.
Everything that could go wrong for the Albiceleste did against the World Cup debutantes last Saturday in Moscow. The team tried to score the winning goal to no avail, while their defense struggled at times to clear the ball. Those two factors, plus Lionel Messi’s missed penalty kick, added up to disaster.
“It was an awkward game because Iceland played in their own half, blocking Messi’s passes,” Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli told reporters following the match. “He kept looking and he wanted Argentina to win, whatever the analysis of any performance says. I am happy because I know that Leo’s commitment to getting us into the next round is still there.”
Sampaoli will need to rearrange the attack. Angel Di Maria was a non-factor in Argentina’s first game, while Sergio Aguero, who scored the team’s only goal, could have done more. Gonzalo Higuain, who started the game on the bench, came in too late to make a difference. This means we could see Paulo Dybala from the start playing alongside Messi.
Not helping either Messi or the team is the long shadow cast by the past success of the legendary Diego Maradona, who led the country to its last title in 1986. Maradona, who was in the stands for the Iceland game, said in an interview with the BBC that the draw was a “disgrace” and warned Sampaoli that “he can’t come back to Argentina” playing like that.
Croatia, meanwhile, are the other contenders from Group D favored to advance to the round of 16. They may have the edge going into this match. Croatia, in its famous red-checkered shirts, will have many fans in tow like it did last Saturday when they defeated Nigeria 2-0.
Croatia also come into the game dogged by some controversy after coach Zlatko Dalic axed Nikola Kalinic from the roster. The AC Milan striker had refused to come off the bench as a sub against Nigeria. The player claimed he had a back ache, an excuse he had also used recently in a friendly versus Brazil.
“I have calmly accepted that, and since I need my players fit and ready to play, I have made this decision,” Dalic told reporters.
Croatia are in first place in Group D and have several standout players they can rely on such as Luka Modric, the Real Madrid midfielder who will renew his La Liga rivalry with Messi, and Ivan Rakitic, who plays for Barcelona alongside the Argentine superstar. Striker Mario Mandzukic is also hard to contain, while Croatia’s rock-solid defense should also worry Argentina’s impotent offense.
The World Cup game between Argentina and Croatia will be broadcast live on Fox. Live streaming is available on Fox Sports Go, which you can access with your cable or satellite subscriptions, both online and through the app, and on Fubo.TV.
A win for Croatia would put them through the knockout stage, while Argentina desperately need the three points to keep its World Cup hopes alive entering the final matchday.