Croatia puts shambolic Argentina to sword. Croatia are through and will likely play France or Denmark in the last 16. Lionel Messi and Argentina are facing the very real prospect of an early World Cup exit after a dreadful error from goalkeeper Willy Caballero set Croatia on their way to victory and a place in the last 16.
On a night when so much was expected of Messi, Chelsea reserve goalkeeper Caballero who made the most telling contribution to his team‚Äôs fate with an attempted chip over Ante Rebic that backfired badly, allowing the striker to fire home into an exposed net in the 53rd minute.
Messi ‚Äď adrift for much of the match, especially during a pedestrian opening half ‚Äď helped to rally his side after going behind, but neither he nor substitute forwards Gonzalo Higuain and Pablo Dybala could find a way through.
The closest Messi came was a half-chance, a snatch at a rebound from a Maximiliano Meza shot which was blocked by Daniel Subasic and turned behind to safety.
It was a dogged defensive second-half display from Croatia, illuminated by a moment of magic from their own masterful number 10, Luka Modric.
His curled shot from range drifted beautifully beyond Caballero‚Äôs dive to seal a victory that took Croatia through to the knockout stage and left them in a strong position to win the group. Luka Modric, the only member of the Croatia squad who played at the 2006 World Cup, scored his 14th international goal.
Ivan Rakitic rounded off a miserable evening for Argentina as he rolled in Croatia‚Äôs third goal in injury time.
For Argentina, they are now cut loose in the wilderness, no longer in control of their own destiny.
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