World Cup – Argentina vs Croatia

Argentina v Croatia preview

Argentina kicked off their World Cup campaign with a disappointing 1-1 draw with Iceland and now face the prospect of having to get a result against Croatia.

La Albiceleste dominated possession in and enjoyed the majority of the chances, with Lionel Messi denied from the spot by Hannes Halldorsson in the Iceland goal.

However, that stalemate raises serious questions about whether or not Argentina can go all the way and Croatia should provide a stern test on Thursday.  Manager Jorge Sampaoli’s tactics have come under scrutiny as Messi was largely ineffective, probably due to being deployed in a deeper role than he is with his club Barcelona.

We should find out whether Sampaoli has had the time or inclination to tinker with his system in the second match but reports indicate he is planning to abandon that 4-2-3-1 formation and send his team out as a 3-4-3. Regardless of any changes, at 3.80 Croatia look good value to cause an upset as they enjoyed an easy ride against Nigeria and cruised to a 2-0 success without having to get out of first gear, while Argentina toiled against Iceland.

A first half own goal saw them take the lead before Luka Modric made sure of the result from the penalty spot with 20 minutes remaining. Real Madrid’s Modric and Barcelona playmaker Ivan Rakitic produced assured performances in midfield and Croatia seemed solid at the back, although they will be facing a higher calibre of player when they come up against Argentina’s impressive frontline on Thursday.

Coach Zlatko Dalic may opt to start with a defensive midfielder for this match having named an adventurous line-up for their curtain raiser.

One area where Croatia did look a little light was in attack as Mario Mandzukic and Andrej Kramaric failed to make an impact.

Dalic has since made the bold decision to send striker Nikola Kalinic home after he apparently – and inexplicably – refused to come on as a late substitute against the Super Eagles. Kalinic’s departure means the forwards who failed to shine look set to keep their places regardless, with Dalic now short of options.

Argentina remain the favourites at 2.15 and a draw is 3.35. Messi could also be worth some consideration at 2.20 to score anytime as he should still be their penalty taker despite the miss against an Iceland.