Croatia are through to the round of 16 after beating Argentina 3-0 in their first stage FIFA World Cup Group D match at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod on Thursday. Messi and his teammates are on the edge of elimination
Croatia progresses to the last-16 for the first time since finishing third at the 1998 World Cup in France.
Ante Rebic gave Croatia the lead in the 53rd minute, benefiting from a catastrophic failed clearance by Willy Caballero to beat the Argentine ‘keeper with a deft volley. Luka Modric made it 2-0 10 minutes from time with a 25-yard rocket before Ivan Rakitic cemented the result with a third in added time.
Messi – adrift for much of the match, especially during a pedestrian opening half – 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 Danijel 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’s dive to seal a victory that took Croatia through to the knockout stage and left them in a strong position to win the group.
Ivan Rakitic rounded off a miserable evening for Argentina as he rolled in Croatia’s third goal in injury time.
For Argentina, they are no longer in control of their own destiny.
This defeat follows their opening 1-1 draw with Iceland, in which Messi missed a penalty, and now even a heavy win over Nigeria in their final game on Tuesday may not be enough to send them through to the next round.
Should Iceland beat Nigeria in their second group game on Friday, Iceland would need only a draw against Croatia in their final match.
For Barcelona forward Messi, Argentina captain and a prolific performer at club level, this was just another harrowing chapter in his recent history of pain and disappointment in the international game.
A total of 32 national football teams are participating in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, held in 11 cities across Russia between June 14 and July 15.
The teams were divided into eight groups, with four in each, and the top two from their relevant groups will proceed to the next round, known as the playoffs or the knockout stage, to keep vying for the much-coveted FIFA World Cup Trophy.
Russia is holding its first time ever edition of the FIFA World Cup, which kicked off in Moscow with a spectacular opening show at the Luzhniki Stadium on the night of June 14. The World Cup is being held at 12 arenas across 11 cities with the final set to be played at Luzhniki on July 15. The 11 host cities are Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Samara.