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Striker Lionel Messi is hoping that lady luck will smile at him when Argentina battles Croatia this Thursday at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium.
Messi hasn’t been that impressive in this year’s World Cup as the 30-year-old failed to convert a penalty that would’ve given Argentina the victory over Iceland last Friday.
The Argentinians went on to settle a 1-1 draw with Iceland. Its draw with Iceland also marked Argentina’s first loss in a World Cup opener since 1990.
Croatia And Messi Are Familiar Foes
More than 12 years ago, Messi put himself on the map when he scored his first goal against Croatia in a friendly match last March 2006. The Croatians went on to win that friendly match 3-2. However, Messi has yet to find the back of the net in this year’s World Cup.
Heading into their match against Croatia, Argentinian head coach Jorge Sampaoli looks to shake things up as he is projected to start to Cristian Pavon to join Messi up front. The 22-year-old Pavon who plays for Boca Juniors is expected to replace Angel Di Maria in the lineup.
Nonetheless, the Argentinians are expected to have a tough time against the Croatians who shared a bit of their game plan against Argentina to the public. A victory by Croatia against Argentina would automatically award the former a slot in the Round of 16. Additionally, Croatia has been on a hot streak lately winning its last five World Cup games.
Regardless of their current winning streak, Croatian head coach Zlatko Dalic believes that Messi still poses a great deal of trouble for Croatia. It is expected that Dalic hopes that Messi’s Barcelona teammate Ivan Rakitic will have the antidote on containing Messi. Besides Messi, the Croatians will also have their hands full against Di Maria, Sergio Aguero, and Juventus striker Paulo Dybala.
“There is no perfect way to stop Lionel Messi. He is the greatest player in the world. But while one excellent player can make a great result, a great team does the job much better. We will go into the game a little bit more relaxed than them,” Dalic explained.
Meanwhile, Dalic has decided to send Nikola Kalinic home after the latter refused to come off the bench as a substitute against Nigeria, according to numerous reports. The Croatians beat Nigeria 2-0 to lead Group D. Kalinic who plays for AC Milan denied the allegations, citing that he has a back injury.
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