Argentina, Croatia set for Group D tussle

Argentina, Croatia set for Group D tussle
epa06813015 Aron Gunnarsson of Iceland (L) and Sergio Aguero of Argentina in action during the FIFA World Cup 2018 group D preliminary round soccer match between Argentina and Iceland in Moscow, Russia, 16 June 2018.

by Graeme Jackson

Wednesday Jun 20, 2018. 13:00

Argentina and Croatia will tussle for three crucial points in their 2018 World Cup Group D clash at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on Thursday, June 21, kick-off at 20h00.

Argentina endured a frustrating opening match this past weekend, as they were held 1-1 by tournament debutants Iceland in Moscow.

The South American heavyweights held the lead through Sergio Aguero, but the Nordic challengers hit back through Alfredh Finngobason to earn a share of the spoils and leave the two teams tied in second place on the Group D log on a point apiece.

The pool leaders are Croatia, who produced an efficient and impressive performance to down Nigeria 2-0 in Kaliningrad. The European side may have been fortunate with their opening goal – which saw the Super Eagles’ Oghenekaro Etebo putting the ball into his own net – but a second-half penalty from Luka Modric added to their advantage and did not flatter them.

‘The Blazers’ midfield axis of Modric and Ivan Rakitic looks to be one of the strongest in the tournament so far, while the attacker such as Andrej Kamaric and Mario Mandzukic also impressed against the West Africans.

Yet one feels that Croatia’s defenders such as Ivan Strinic and Dejan Lovren will be in for a much sterner test, especially from Argentina’s Lionel Messi – the Barcelona maestro was an influential figure against Iceland, but left his scoring boots at home and even missed a penalty.

It’s unlikely he – along with Aguero and Angel Di Maria – will be so profligate again, meaning Croatia will need to be at the top of their game to keep ‘La Albiceleste’ at bay. Coach Zlatko Dalic will call for an even more precise and disciplined performance from the men in white and red.

In head-to-head terms, Argentina and Croatia have met in four previous matches according to FIFA’s statistics database. ‘La Albiceleste’ have claimed two wins compared to one for the ‘Blazers’. The South Americans won 1-0 in the teams’ only World Cup meeting – in Bordeaux in 1998 – and also claimed a 2-1 triumph in the most recent clash, a friendly held in London in November 2014.

Argentina v Croatia – head-to-head

Matches played 4

Argentina wins 2

Croatia wins 1

Draws 1

Argentina goals 5

Croatia goals 4

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