A stunning volley from Ante Rebic, a screamer from captain Luka Modric and an injury time goal from Ivan Rakitic have helped sink Argentina on Thursday night at Nizhny Novgorod stadium and send Croatia into the second round of the World Cup.
Croatia’s 3-0 win means they have a maximum of 6 points at the top of Group D.
Zlatko Dalic made one change from the side which beat Nigeria 2-0 on Saturday with Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozovic coming in to sure up the midfield in place of the more attacking Andrej Kramaric.
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 Perisic 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 Rebic 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 Rebic 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 Mandzukic’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 Rakitic 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.
Rakitic would, however, get his name on the scoresheet when he tapped in in injury time after Kovacic 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.
The win means Croatia has advanced through to the knock-out stages with their final group match on Tuesday at 8 pm CET against Iceland.