The underdogs ended up winning the thrilling match
Heading into their second match of Group D, Croatia were heavy underdogs for the highly-anticipated clash against Messi’s Argentina on Thursday evening. Online sportsbooks in Croatia were all backing La Albiceleste, but the Croats managed to cause a major upset.
After a goalless first half, in the 53rd minute of the game Ante Rebic opened the scoring for Croatia with a stunning volley that was gifted to him by a disastrous mistake made by Argentina’s goalkeeper Wilfredo Caballero. With 10 minutes remaining on the clock, Real Madrid’s midfield brain and Croatia’s captain Luka Modric made it 2-0 for the 1998 World Cup bronze winners, with a jaw-dropping screamer from distance – his trademark shot.
And then right before the whistle was blown by Uzbek referee Ravshan Irmatov, Mateo Kovacic and Ivan Rakitic rushed up front as Argentina’s defence was crumbling to make it 3-0 for the Croats, with the former providing the assist and the latter scoring the goal.
With Croatia now having 6 points, they’ve effectively qualified for the knockout phase of the 2018 World Cup, while Argentina will be left sweating as they’ve only managed to collect 1 point so far. Tonight’s Group D match between Nigeria and Iceland will be closely watched by the whole Argentine squad, as it could seriously diminish their chances of further progression in the tournament.
Bet on Nigeria v Iceland with Bet365 Sportsbook – H 2.87 (15/8) D 3.10 (21/10) A 2.80 (9/5)
(For more info about the online betting sites and exciting World Cup betting odds, check out Bet365 Sportsbook review.)
Croatia boss warns of over-exuberance following victory over Argentina
Modric, who found himself on the scoresheet, stressed that their remarkable result was down to a “good game” while adding that neutralizing Messi was one of their most important objectives on the way to victory.
“This result and Argentina’s poor display was due to our good game, our compact block all over the pitch, particularly when we didn’t have the ball,” said the 32-year-old midfielder.
“We cut off Messi, stopped him receiving the ball. He’s their most dangerous player. Messi is an incredible player, but he can’t do everything alone. In football you need help and it can’t be done alone. Although he is great, great, but it can’t be done alone.”
“The way we played helped today too. We closed the gaps so (Javier) Mascherano couldn’t pass the ball in the beginning, and then later when we got our rhythm of the game, we played very well.”
According to online sportsbooks in Russia, Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic immediately warned the players their feet must be kept on the ground and avoid getting over excited about the victory, if they are to make a significant impact at the 2018 World Cup by going a long way.
“We have to be happy, we have emerged from the group,” said Dalic. “We have beaten great Argentina with the greatest player in the world, Messi. However, we have to pray to God we don’t go over the top. We have to be humble, dignified, put in a good shift as a team. No one is happier than I am, but I have to keep calm and composed, feet on the ground.”