Lionel Messi just couldn’t seem to find enough space to create opportunities for Argentina against Iceland last weekend. Worse than that, the superstar forward missed a penalty kick, which helped pave the way for a 1-1 draw.
Messi will look to post a better all-around performance, when Argentina continues its 2018 World Cup trek in Russia with a Group D matchup against Croatia on Thursday (June 21) at 2:00 p.m. EST on Fox. To live stream the game for free click on this link.
The fact that Croatia is the only Group D squad with a victory thus far — a 2-0 shutout of Nigeria — makes it all the more crucial for Argentina to walk off the field Thursday with a win in tow.
To do that, Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli told Reuters that the team and its fans must move forward from last weekend’s draw and not place the blame on solely on Messi because it’s simply not fair.
"Messi can't be the only guilty one. When he scores, all Argentines celebrate, so when he misses, we can't jump on him alone ... that's too easy a way to think," Sampaoli said on Wednesday. "I told him 'This is the World Cup of 40 million (Argentinians). You made a mistake, I made a mistake, we all made a mistake.' The team will be together when things go well and when things go badly."
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It should be intriguing to see if extra attention on Messi frees up opportunities for his teammates against Croatia. And if such opportunities should arise, Sampaoli said it’s imperative for Argentina to find the back of the net.
"When [Messi] has two or three opponents trying to block him, somewhere on the pitch a teammate is free, as happened against Iceland," Sampaoli said, while continuing to speak with Reuters. "We need to take advantage of that."
Although Croatia enters the match 1-0, its 2-0 victory over Nigeria last Saturday was aided by an own goal and a penalty kick score. If Argentina is able to stay away from errors like that, Croatia might be in for a long 90 minutes.
Do you expect Messi and Argentina to bounce back from their draw and defeat Croatia on Thursday? After facing Croatia, Argentina will wrap up its Group D competition against Nigeria on Tuesday (June 26) at 2:00 p.m. EST on Fox.