Thursday 21 Jun

Argentina vs Croatia - Match Preview

21 Jun 2018 Ed Mackey INTERNATIONAL: World Cup, Group D
INTERNATIONAL: World Cup, Group D

Argentina

  • L
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • D

vs

Kick-off
18:00 GMT
21 June 2018

Croatia

  • W
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • W

Kick-off
18:00 GMT 21 June 2018

After four years of waiting, the 2018 World Cup is finally in full flow and it has been incredible so far. The last of the three games on Thursday brings two of the teams in Group D together as Argentina and Croatia meet at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium.

STATS

  • The biggest shock of the opening round of fixtures involved Argentina as they were unbelievably held to a 1-1 draw with World Cup debutants, Iceland. It means that they must bounce back with a win to reinstate their status as favourites to top Group D. This match will be a tougher test than Iceland so the Argentinians need to be on their guards.
  • Croatia began their World Cup campaign with a comfortable 2-0 win over a disorganised Nigeria side on Saturday night. Another victory would see the group leaders confirm their place in the knockout stage but the potential for mistakes needs ironing out before the clash on Thursday.
  • Many people’s favourite to light up this tournament, Lionel Messi, had 11 shots (including a penalty) against Iceland and failed to score. He’s expected to return to form and is still Argentina’s main threat.
  • Croatia’s goals against Nigeria came from an own goal and a converted Luka Modric penalty so they’ll be hoping to add a goal from open play to their list this summer.

HEAD TO HEAD

This won’t be the first time that these two nations have faced on the biggest stage of all. The previous meeting came in the group stages of the 1998 World Cup where Croatia ended up finishing 3rd despite being beaten 1-0 by Argentina in their final group fixture. It was the South Americans who came out on top when they last faced in 2014, winning 2-1 courtesy of Messi’s winning penalty.

ARGENTINA NEWS

It’s important for Argentina to pick up their first win of the tournament on Thursday evening. The one expected change from the side that drew with Iceland is that Cristian Pavon may start following his positive impact off the bench.

Latest matches: Argentina

16.06.2018 Worl Argentina Iceland 1:1 D
29.05.2018 Int. Argentina Haiti 4:0 W
27.03.2018 Int. Spain Argentina 6:1 L
23.03.2018 Int. Argentina Italy 2:0 W
14.11.2017 Int. Nigeria Argentina 4:2 L

CROATIA NEWS

One of the big stories of the World Cup last week was that the Croatian forward, Nikola Kalinic, has been sent home after reportedly refusing to come on from the bench in the dying minutes of their win over Nigeria. Zlatko Dalic has confirmed he will make changes.

Latest matches: Croatia

16.06.2018 Worl Croatia Nigeria 2:0 W
08.06.2018 Int. Croatia Senegal 2:1 W
03.06.2018 Int. Brazil Croatia 2:0 L
03.06.2018 Int. Croatia Brazil 0:2 L
28.03.2018 Int. Mexico Croatia 0:1 W

SUMMARY

With the sheer quality of the players in their squad, Argentina are seen by most as favourites to win their second group match. However, Croatia are considered as a serious dark horse by several pundits and their sense of unity may overcome the big names in the opposing starting XI. It is poised to be a very close game and could turn out to be one of the best of the tournament.

About the author - Ed Mackey

Experienced sports writer and huge Leicester City fan.

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