21 June 2019 – Exactly one year ago today, one of the most memorable victories in Croatian football history took place at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Russia at the 2018 World Cup.
A stunning volley from Ante Rebić, a screamer from captain Luka Modrić and an injury time goal from Ivan Rakitić have helped sink Lionel Messi’s Argentina to send Croatia into the second round of the World Cup.
The victory at the time went down as the nation’s most impressive World Cup vicotry, along with the 3-1 win over Germany in 1998, and was celebrated well into the night in Croatia and around the world where Croatian communities were.
Croatia’s 3-0 win on the night meant they had a maximum of 6 points at the top of Group D.
Zlatko Dalić made one change from the side which beat Nigeria 2-0 in the opening match of the tournament with Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozović coming in to sure up the midfield in place of the more attacking Andrej Kramarić.
It was a nervous looking Croatia in the opening stages with Argentina, needing a result, closing down space quickly and forcing errors. It was Croatia however who would fashion the first chance when Ivan Perišić broke on the counter down the left but his shot was well saved by Argentina’s keeper Caballero.
In the 13th minute Argentina had their first chance but Meza’s shot was blocked by Lovren and on the half hour, Perez could only shoot wide following a defensive mistake. Croatia had a half chance to Rebić near the end of the half but the score would stay scoreless at the break.
The game got turned on its head just 7 minutes into the second half when Ante Rebić spectacularly volleyed into the back of the Argentine net to give Croatia the lead after a mistake from Caballero trying to clear.
Croatia nearly added a second moments later but Mandžukić’s header was deflected for a corner. Messi started to come to life with half an hour remaining and had a good chance in the 63rd minute but his Barcelona teammate Ivan Rakitić would block his close-range shot.
Croatia put the game out of Argentina’s reach in the 80th minute when captain Luka Modric received the ball just outside the box and fired a stunning curling shot past the hapless Caballero.
Croatia almost had a third when Rakitic’s free-kick rattled the crossbar with three minutes left on the clock. Rakitić would, however, get his name on the scoresheet when he tapped in in injury time after Kovačić done some great work.
While Argentina tried everything, there was no way through the solid Croatian defence which was led brilliantly by Dejan Lovren and Domagoj Vida.
“It was a fantastic performance. We were compact, we played responsibly and every facet was good. We have achieved our first goal,” coach Dalic said.