NIZHNY NOVGOROD: Stung by his failure to score a penalty and avert a disappointing draw against Iceland, Argentina’s brilliant forward and captain Lionel Messi would love to make amends in their World Cup Group D match against Croatia on Thursday.
But the Croatians go into the game in ebullient mood after a comfortable 2-0 win over Nigeria, and will look to add to the frustrations of Messi who has failed to replicate the glories of his Barcelona career on the international stage.
Having led Argentina to an agonising final defeat by Germany four years ago, Messi turns 31 in a few days and may be playing his last World Cup. He would need to win it to rival fellow great Diego Maradona for the eternal love of his compatriots.
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic has unashamedly turned to midfielder Ivan Rakitic – a team mate of Messi’s at Barcelona – for ideas and tactics to stop him.
“I will use all the information I can,” he said, declaring Rakitic his temporary “assistant” before the game.
“There is no perfect way to stop Lionel Messi … he is the greatest player in the world. But while one excellent player can make a great result, a great team does the job much better … We will go into the game a little bit more relaxed than them.”
Those who followed closely Argentina’s shaky qualification for the World Cup were not so shocked by the result against Iceland, and do not expect them to roll over Croatia despite their abundance of individual talent.—REUTERS