World Cup preview: Argentina vs Croatia

first_imgArgentina are targeting their first win of the 2018 World Cup when they face Croatia in Group D on Thursday.Jorge Sampaoli’s side drew their opening game of the tournament against Iceland, with Sergio Aguero’s opener cancelled out by Alfred Finnbogason.Lionel Messi missed a penalty, but Sampaoli says the Barcelona star should not shoulder all of the blame.”When Argentina don’t win, we attribute responsibility to Leo. I think that’s too easy a way for Argentinians to think,” Sampaoli said.”There were lots of factors of irritation for not winning against Iceland. There are 40 of us at this World Cup. The team will be together when things go well and when things go badly.”Croatia had better fortunes in their opening fixture, cruising past Nigeria with a 2-0 win, but will face a much tougher opponent in Argentina at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium. However, Croatia coach Zlatko Dali says his side have “nothing to lose”.”The match against Argentina is the easiest game for us at the World Cup because we have three points and we play against a big opponent,” he said.”We have nothing to lose in that game. I’ll tell my players before the start of the game just to enjoy the spectacle.”Team newsSampaoli named his starting XI for Iceland the day before Argentina’s opening game, although is yet to reveal his chosen line-up for this meeting.He has never used the same XI twice during his time in charge of the country and Cristian Pavon could make his competitive debut. Croatia will be without Nikola Kalinic, who was sent home after reportedly refusing to come on as a substitute against Nigeria, with a back injury cited as the reason. Dalic has said he will make some changes.Opta statsThis will be the fifth meeting between Argentina and Croatia, with the South Americans winning twice to Croatia’s one (D1).Croatia have lost all four of their World Cup meetings with South American sides, once in each of the four tournaments they’ve played in.Lionel Messi has scored in each of his two previous appearances against Croatia, including his first ever goal for Argentina (March 2006).Lionel Messi has now failed to score with 21 successive shots in World Cup finals tournaments for Argentina, since last scoring versus Nigeria on June 25 2014. Croatia have scored in each of their last five World Cup games, their longest such streak in the competition.Croatia defender Vedran Corluka has made 99 appearances for his country. If he plays in this game he’ll be the second member of their 2018 World Cup squad to earn 100 caps for Croatia (after Luka Modric).last_img