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What In The World Is Happening To Argentina at the World Cup?

NIZHNY NOVGOROD, RUSSIA - JUNE 21: Maximiliano Meza (13), Paulo Dybala (21), Nicolas Otamendi (17), Gonzalo Higuain (9) and Lionel Messi (10) of Argentina gesture after losing the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Group D match against Croatia at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia on June 21, 2018. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Argentina could be heading out of the World Cup early doors in Russia. What has been the causes of their unforeseen downfall?

Yesterday saw Argentina face Croatia in a compelling encounter between Group D’s two favorites. The South Americans came into the tie on one point after their shock 1-1 draw with Iceland, and Croatia were group leaders after comfortably seeing off Nigeria 2-0 from the first round. Rather amazingly, the Croats continued their run of good form as they swept aside Jorge Sampaoli’s team 3-0, with goals coming from Luka Modric, Ante Rebic and Ivan Rakitic.

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Paper vs Practice

Going forward, Argentina are arguably one of the strongest World Cup teams this tournament, however their performances thus far haven’t reflected in the same promising fashion. The South Americans boast high-profile attacking names such as Manchester City’s club here Sergio Aguero, Juventus’ lethal striking partnership in Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala and, oh, Lionel Messi. That’s surely enough to make any defense shiver, though on the field together they just don’t seem to harmonize and share that essential understanding. Perhaps the Argentine’s have too much reliance on their star men and don’t work to support one another from the back and through midfield?

Leaky Defense

Well where do we start here? Let’s work our way up, Willy Caballero – there’s no hiding! What was the keeper thinking? The Chelsea man received what looked like a harmless pass into his box but was punished in the most embarrassing manner. Caballero went to clear the ball out of his box, only to slice the ball underneath so fine that it moved barely two yards in front of him, and into the grateful path of Rebic to capitalize on. A truly soul destroying moment on the biggest stage of all. Perhaps it’s harsh to just single out the goalkeeper though, because he was only at fault for one goal. For much of the game, Nicolas Otamendi and Gabriel Mercado were caught napping on a number of occasions, with sluggish passing, dozy positional play and little communication causing the South Americans all sorts of trouble at the back.

A Must Win Next Game

Sampaoli’s men face Nigeria on Tuesday, in what will be a fight for second place and result in qualification to the knockout stages. Nigeria are currently in second place on three points, with Argentina looking very vulnerable on just one point. The White and Sky Blue’s have to dust themselves off and put in a tournament-saving performance. It’s hard to believe this same group of players finished as runners up in the 2014 World Cup. They will need to utilize their experience and get the best out of star man Lionel Messi after his disappointing start in Russia. Surely this won’t be another game without a win for Argentina.

Will they be late bloomers or is this a shock exit on the horizon?

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