Argentina’s hopes of World Cup glory have been dealt a serious blow after going down 3-0 to Croatia on Thursday.
The South American team, ranked fifth in the world, were kept scoreless by the European side and remain without a win in this year’s competition.
It was an unexpected loss for Lionel Messi’s men, and one which leaves their chances of reaching the Round of 16 in doubt.
A scoreless first half gave way to three unanswered goals to the European side, ranked 20th in the world, in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.
The scorecard opened in the 53rd minute after a shocking error from Argentina’s goalkeeper Willy Caballero. A botched clearance lobbed straight to Croatian striker Ante Rebic, who dutifully slotted the goal.
Argentina replied with added pressure and intent, but the goals simply did not come.
Luka Modrić silenced any comeback with a goal in the 80th minute, with the match all but over by the time Ivan Rakitić slotted Croatia’s third in extra time. The win makes it two from two for Croatia, who are now guaranteed to proceed into the next round of play.
Argentina will rue their missed opportunities as they maintained the majority of possession and nailed 10 shots on goal. But goals were again hard to come by as Messi failed to fire.
Thursday’s match must have seemed like a bad dream for Argentina, who again failed to overcome an opposition they were heavily favoured against.
The loss follows on from their draw against Iceland on Saturday. On paper it should have been a white-wash, as the fifth best footballing nation took on the small-ever country to qualify in the competition. And yet…
Argentina will now be hoping the mathematics are in their favour as the remainder of Group D continues its campaign.
Argentina is scheduled to play Nigeria in their final group game on Tuesday. To relive the action of Argentina vs Croatia, check out the Argentina Reports live-blog.