Tue | Nov 20, 2018

Football Fever | Croatia, France advance - Humiliation for Argentina

Published:Friday | June 22, 2018 | 12:00 AM
France's Samuel Umtiti (left) and Peru's Paolo Guerrero compete for the ball during the Group C World Cup match yesterday. France won 1-0.
France's Ngolo Kante (right) goes to tackle Peru's Andre Carrillo during the Group C match against Peru at the 2018 World Cup yesterday.
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MOSCOW (AP):

Lionel Messi's goal drought at the 2018 World Cup continued on Day 8 after Croatia thrashed Argentina 3-0 to advance from the group.

France also qualified for the round of 16 after beating Peru 1-0 and eliminating the South Americans, the fourth team to be going home after this round. Kylian Mbappe became the youngest player to score for France at a World Cup at 19 years and 183 days.

Denmark and Australia drew 1-1 in the early match, leaving both teams to fight for the second spot in Group C.

Messi's frustrating international career may be coming to an early and anticlimactic finish after Argentina's worst loss in World Cup group play in 60 years.

With Diego Maradona watching from the stands, the 2014 runners-up were routed by Croatia

Messi got off only one shot in a defeat that pushed Argentina to the brink of elimination. Messi, who turns 31 on Sunday, has never won a major title with Argentina's senior national team despite a decade of championships with Barcelona and five player of the year awards.

Argentina, hurt by the poor play of goalkeeper Willy Caballero yesterday had not lost by such a large margin in the first round since a 6-1 defeat to Czechoslovakia in 1958. Caballero gained the starting role because No. 1 keeper Sergio Romero injured his knee last month in the run-up to the tournament.

Argentina, who have not missed making the second round since 2002, have not been eliminated. But the two-time champions need to win their next match against Nigeria on Tuesday, as well as get help from other matches.

Yesterday's loss came in humiliating fashion for one of football's most storied nations.

Caballero mangled a clearance and kicked the ball towards Croatia defender Ante Rebic, who one-timed it into the net in the 53rd minute.

 

Argentina Crumbled

 

And it got worse as Argentina crumbled, frustrated by the Croatian defence. Modric scored with a hooking shot in the 80th and Ivan Rakitic added the third in stoppage time.

Meanwhile, France, with all their attacking talent proved they also have class in defence.

Other coaches might envy Didier Deschamps, who has a forward line bursting with skill, speed and goals. But Peru coach Ricardo Gareca looked at the other end yesterday after his team lost 1-0.

"I think France did some outstanding work of defence," said Gareca, whose team was eliminated while the French advanced to the knockout stage.

Deschamps made two tactical changes for the game, using Olivier Giroud and Blaise Matuidi in the starting line-up. The result upfront was visible. France were more fluid than in the 2-1 victory over Australia and the co-operation between midfielders Paul Pogba and Ngolo Kante with the attackers resulted in a number of scoring opportunities.

It was not just defenders Benjamin Pavard, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti and Lucas Hernandez who were solid for the second straight game.

"It doesn't come only from the French defence," Deschamps said. "The attacking players did what they had to do. They made an effort for the team to be compact, to work together. It was very important to have very solid defence."