NIZHNY NOVGOROD (Russia): 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.
Croatian media outlet 24sata said on Monday morning that national coach Zlatko Dalic has taken the decision after Kalinic, who was named among the substitutes in Kaliningrad, declined to come on in the closing stages of the clash. The Croatian Football Federation later confirmed the player had left the team’s camp today, Monday, and would return home immediately.
Speaking post-match, Dalic had told reporters that the team had finished the game without injuries, but “with a problem”.
Group D : Sat 6/22,
22 June : 2018
12:00 : Pm