Argentina vs Croatia - Preview - World Cup 2018

Argentina vs Croatia  World Cup 2018 Preview

The unofficial “Group of Death” got off to a rocky start with Argentina failing to deliver the goods in their opening match of the tournament against a resolute Icelandic team, with the G.O.A.T himself, Lionel Messi, failing to convert a penalty. 

Croatia, on the other hand, gave a classy performance against Nigeria, leaving no room for disappointment with a 2-0 win. A win against La Albiceleste will all but secure qualification to the Round of 16 but that’s easier said than done. 

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FIFA World Cup
Argentina vs Croatia  
Group D
Thursday 21 June
Nizhny Novgorod Stadium 
20:00

To Win
Argentina 19/20
Draw 9/4
Croatia 3/1

Argentina 

In the 19th minute at the Otkrytie Arena on Saturday afternoon, Sergio Aguero lifted the spirits of the Argentinean supporters with a sublime strike on the turn to make it 1-0, leaving the Icelanders with questions to answer. 

Four minutes later that’s exactly what they did with Alfred Finnbogason's close-range effort to level the game. Hearts were then broken when Messi failed to find the back of the net from the penalty spot with a poor taken kick – the first time the Barcelona star had ever missed a penalty for his country within 90 minutes. 

The match ended 1-1 as Argentina failed to win their opening game at a World Cup for the first time since losing to Cameroon in 1990. In that edition, they eventually reached the final, but losing out to West Germany.  

While Messi may have let his country down with an unsuccessful spot-kick, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner had 11 shots in total in the match, more than he’s had in any of his previous World Cup campaigns. You can count on the maestro to be involved in all the action yet again come Thursday evening. 

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Croatia 

Croatia claimed what looked to be a routine 2-0 victory over African giants Nigeria with the Croats sitting high and mighty at the summit of Group D following Oghenekaro Etebo’s own goal and a coolly slotted Luka Modric penalty. 

The result leaves the Vatreni in a great position after Argentina’s disappointing 1-1 draw against World Cup first-timers Iceland. Qualification is up for grabs for the Croats should they claim maximum points against Argentina and looking at how this year’s tournament is progressing, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise. 

Croatia have quality from back to front, more than enough to hurt this Argentina/Messi side. An interesting fact is that the Vatreni have scored in each of their last five World Cup games, something to consider before striking a bet.

Probable line-ups:
Argentina: 4-2-3-1
Caballero; Tagliafico, Otamendi, Rojo, Salvio; Mascherano, Biglia; Dybala, Messi, Di Maria; Aguero

Croatia: 4-2-3-1
Subasic; Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic; Rakitic, Modric; Perisic, Mandzukic, Rebic; Kramaric

Prediction: Both Teams to Score – Yes (1/1) 
Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli opted to leave Paulo Dybala on the bench against Iceland for reasons I can’t understand but the Juventus star man is likely to feature here with La Albiceleste needing their very best team to come out on top – adding to the fire power going forward. Still, I feel Argentina struggled to keep Iceland out and Croatia have the players to capitalize on their unstable defence. Take Both Teams to Score at even money.

Written by Aaron Crowie

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