Argentina 0-3 Croatia: Five things we learned

Argentina 0-3 Croatia: Five things we learned
Source: Ghana/Gideon Baiden
Date: 21-06-2018 Time: 11:06:36:pm
Croatia’s Luka Modric celebrates scoring their second goal with a fantastic finish. Photograph: Elsa/Getty Images

Argentina are facing the prospect of an early World Cup exit after a dreadful error from goalkeeper Willy Caballero set Croatia on their way to 3-0 victory and a place in the last 16.


The heavily tattooed Jorge Sampaoli deployed an unusual 3-4-3- formation and it never got the Argentinian team going. In the 4th minute, Ivan Perisic was slid through on goal. His effort was clawed away by Willy Caballero and that exposes the weakness of the 3-4-3 system. When the wing backs push forward, they leave a lot of gap behind them and any quick thinking forward line will be devastating during counter attacks. In the first half, we saw Croatia try to exploit such spaces left behind by the advancing wingbacks of Argentina. Though Argentina had 58% possession, most of their passes went sideways due to Croatia’s midfield overload. The pattern didn’t change in the second half putting Sampaoli’s tactical prowess under scrutiny.


The difference between the Lionel Messi of Barcelona and the Lionel Messi of Argentina is the potency of the midfield. In this game, there was a lack of supply to Messi. He had to drop deeper and deeper in order to carve out something for his team. Argentina was outnumbered in midfield and they simply had no response to it. Argentina cannot go far if their game plan is to rely on Messi. Messi is definitely a genius but he is no God. Sampaoli has been weak in finding a system to accommodate Messi, Paolo Dybala and Angel Di Maria. In effect, when Messi is heavily marked, there is none other to rely on for creativity.


Modric and Rakitic were immense in this game as they run the midfield and prevented Argentina’s midfield duo of Javier Mascherano and Perez from producing anything worthwhile. In first-half stoppage time, Modric played Rebic through on goal with an exquisite pass. That was an indication of the level of vision of Modric, the midfield maestro. Modric capped his excellent display with a very breathtaking goal in the 80th minute.


The Dalic came up with an excellent strategy to outwit Sampaoli. Dalic set-up his team to outnumber Argentina in the midfield whiles relying on the experience of Modric and wingers, Ivan Perisic and Rebic to exploit faces vacated by Argentina’s wingbacks. Without the ball, Croatia lined up in a 5-4-1 formation and with the ball, Croatia looked to spread play quickly to the flanks which worked to perfection. Sampaoli’s weakness has been an inability to galvanise his group of individually talented players into a solid team.


Willy Caballero is a decent goalkeeper but he is absolutely poor when playing out the back. He was ditched by Guardiola because of this and it was shocking to see Argentina playing out the back despite Caballero’s poor footwork. He nearly caused Argentina in their game against Iceland. In the first half, he nearly gave Mandzukic a clear sight at goal with a weak pass to Nicolas Tagliafico. However, Caballero could do nothing when his miskick landed straight in the path of Ante Rebic. The Argentinian staff must know that playing out the back is not Caballero’s thing.

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