Argentina’s World Cup hopes were handed a huge blow as they were comprehensively beaten by Croatia in the second group match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Croatia completely controlled the game and were handed a gift by Argentinian goalkeeper Willy Caballero when he mishit a pass, with Ante Rebic making no mistake from inside the box, with an excellently hit finish. Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, the two best performers on the night, added their names to the scoresheet and completed the proceedings.
Argentina (3-4-3) Manager: Jorge Sampaoli
Caballero; Mercado, Otamendi, Tagliafico; Salvio, Mascherano, Perez, Acuna; Messi, Aguero, Meza
Croatia (4-1-4-1) Manager: Dalic
Subasic; Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic; Brozovic; Rebic, Modric, Rakitic, Perisic; Mandzukic
Made using TacticalPad
- Croatia’s pressing was aimed at shutting down the centre and force Argentina to the wings where they could outnumber the ball carrier to win it back. It succeeded in depriving Messi off the ball and even when he did get it, it was in the flanks or surrounded by bodies
By shutting down the centre, Croatia could send Argentina out wide and use the touchline to limit the angles for any pass by an Argentinian player. This also helped in reducing Messi’s influence on the game as he could not be picked out in space by his teammates. If Messi did receive the ball, the Croatian players could adjust accordingly- if it was near the flanks, they knew he would always come inside on his left and doubled up on him there. If it was in the centre, the space was extremely limited for him to have any meaningful influence.
- Argentina did not press very efficiently. One of the major ones was the improper coverage of passing lanes which led to easy routes into midfield for the likes of Modric and Rakitic to progress it further. Croatia used this well to create space in and around the centre
Croatia had the likes of Modric, Brozovic and Rakitic in their midfield, all very good press-resistant players, especially Modric. They could make use of this trait to easily navigate through Argentina’s ill coordinated press which had issues in its execution. This meant that Croatia could hit Argentina on the break, executing their transitions to perfection. Having Mandzukic and Rebic up front helped this cause, as both the players were willing runners and kept dragging the Argentinian wide centrebacks out of their position.
The game reflected the contrasting nature of coaching in the two sides. Croatia had a set game plan and played it to perfection while Argentina just made the job easier for Croatia by playing into their hands. The lack of any clear cut attacking pattern from Argentina was a concern, something one would not expect from a Sampaoli coached side. The scaling point was the fact that their pressing was off as well, meaning they had no influential creating source in their kitty.
Argentina’s hopes of making it to the next round took a huge hit after this result, and they shall be watching with baited breath the results of the remaining fixtures in this group.
Read more on how Croatia are a side that looks to make use of transitions here .