NIZHNIY NOVGOROD, Russia: Coach Zlatko Dalic said that Argentina star Lionel Messi was left “powerless” by his Croatia players in the stunning 3-0 victory on Thursday that sent them into the World Cup knockout stage.
Croatia outclassed the South Americans, as five-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi struggled to make an impact in a match when his team were dominated in midfield and failed to get him on the ball in dangerous areas.
“We were good. There was neither chance, room or time (with the ball) for Messi,” said Dalic on Friday.
“All was set for Messi to have neither room nor time. The main thing was to block the flow of the ball to him.
“He felt powerless, his body language was showing that he was powerless.”
Real Madrid’s Luka Modric produced a masterful display in midfield — capped with a magnificent goal — and Dalic said that his captain and number 10 had outshone his opposite number.
“Everything is known about Luka, he plays every match for the squad at the highest possible level,” he added.
“To score a goal in such a match against Messi… It’s a reward, that Messi did nothing and he (Modric) did everything for Croatia.
“It is a reward for Luka, great motivation. You could see by his reaction after the goal what it meant to him.”
Croatia will secure top spot in Group D by avoiding defeat against Iceland in their final match in Rostov next Tuesday.
Dalic knows that could prove crucial as it would likely see his team avoid France in the last 16 and instead face Denmark or Australia, although he will rest players that are one booking from a suspension.
“I would like that we are the first in the group, this is my wish, and we will hopefully achieve that,” said the 51-year-old.
“In any case against Iceland we have to take care about the last-16 phase. We have to take care of ourselves. We have five or four players who are on yellow cards… So there will be changes to the team.” —AFP