Croatia inflicted a brutal 3-0 World Cup defeat on Argentina which will damage the two-time champions’ psyche, and may prove fatal to their participation at this tournament.
The result means that an Iceland win over Nigeria on Friday and a convenient draw between Croatia and Iceland in their final game would see Argentina eliminated.
Lionel Messi had no answer after a goalkeeping howler from Chelsea’s Willy Caballero gave Croatia a 53rd-minute lead in Nizhny Novgorod before Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic compounded Argentina’s misery.
In an error-strewn game it was Caballero’s mistake which broke the deadlock. The goalkeeper attempted a lob over the head of Ante Rebic, enormously undercooked it and Rebic volleyed the ball home beautifully.
Modric made it 2-0 in the 81st-minute, jinking round his marker and unleashing a gorgeous curling shot.
Rakitic hit the bar from a free kick five minutes later before rolling into an unguarded net in second half stoppage time to complete the rout.
It’s all doom and gloom for Argentina. This was their heaviest defeat in the first round group stages of a World Cup tournament since losing 1-6 to Czechoslovakia in 1958.
They have failed to win either of their opening two group stage matches for the first time since 1974.
Lionel Messi had one shot on goal against Croatia. One.