How Lionel Messi's Argentina can still qualify after painful 3-0 Croatia loss

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Lionel Messi‘s Argentina were hammered 3-0 by Croatia after goals from Ante Rebic, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic on Thursday and their World Cup dream looks all but over.

Although, Jorge Sampaoli‘s men can still qualify for the next round, but their fate depends on the outcome of other teams in their group.

Croatia are top of Group D with six points from two games. They have already qualified. Argentina have one point from two games – earned from the draw against Iceland.

Debutants Iceland and Nigeria have one point and zero points resoectively but will play each other on Friday.

Iceland are yet to face Croatia as well.

sampaoli

Messi and co could go ahead if:

Scenario 1

1. Argentina must defeat Nigeria and expect Iceland to lose both their remaining games against Nigeria and Croatia.

Scenario 2

2. Iceland loses or draw against Nigeria, Croatia then defeats or draws against Iceland, and Argentina defeat Nigeria

Scenario 3

3. If Iceland do manage to win even one of their games, then Argentina must also win against Nigeria and make sure they finish up with a better goal difference (Argentina’s goal difference is currently -3).

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Ilkay Gundogan deserves chance to help spark Germany into life and more tactics v Sweden

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In line for a start? Gundogan.

Germany‘s World Cup hopes are firmly in the balance before Saturday’s must-win clash against Sweden (22:00).

Following their opening 1-0 defeat to Mexico in Group F last Sunday, defending champions Die Mannschaft have it all to do at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi.

Here, we look at the key tactical talking points ahead of the match.

Gundogan could prove to be Germany’s trump card

Joachim Low is expected to make a change in the midfield department.

Sami Khedira will likely be the main casualty after a lacklustre display against Mexico, with Toni Kroos’ greater powers of proficiency and technicality on the ball exempts him from getting cut.

Manchester City star Ilkay Gundogan would be a worthy beneficiary of that call, with the 27-year-old likely to bring more zip and pace to a midfield that was lacking in invention and profligacy moving the ball forward.

Gundogan enjoyed a season of rejuvenation at the Etihad Stadium, his first relatively injury-free campaign after a serious knee ligament injury, and arrives into this tournament with a spring in his step and no scars having not playing in the Mexico loss.

He has a modest record at international level, though injuries have restricted his progress. Four years ago, Gundogan didn’t feature in World Cup glory so will feel he has some making up to do.

In the spotlight: Gundogan.

Forsberg could prove to be a factor

The heir to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s throne, Emil Forsberg, struggled to stand out against Korea.

The RB Leipzig winger, 26, who is being tracked by Arsenal and Manchester United among others, is one man who has the quality at his feet – something, as a whole, this Sweden team don’t possess.

In the opener, he struggled to get into the game on the left-hand side and managed just one dribble. All of his four efforts on goal were off target, too.

He will certainly be hoping to improve on these statistics and raise his game against the Germans, although his pass completion (89.7 per cent) was higher than any one of his team-mates and highlighted his class and composure.

It does indeed speak volumes of the way Sweden look to get the ball to him at every opportunity and his link-up with left-back Ludwig Augustinsson will be crucial.

Germany’s right full-back Joshua Kimmich was ruthlessly exposed by the Mexicans and Forsberg can be the man to repeat the trick with skillful runs down the channel.

Sweden's midfielder Emil Forsberg (L) vies for the ball with South Korea's defender Lee Yong during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group F football match between Sweden and South Korea at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod on June 18, 2018. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

Emil Forsberg has the ability to cause Germany problems.

Germany need a fast start

When you need a result, making your way fast out of the starting blocks can make a difference.

Against Mexico, they dominated the possession stakes (retaining 66 per cent of the ball) but were too slow in the implementation of their forward ideas.

Too often, that possession was among the back four and Kroos and Khedira laboured on the ball, and when they lost it, were well and truly hit on the counter-attack by Mexico.

If they are to turn the tables and press Sweden with direct running and powerful forward play, then Julian Draxler could be key to their hopes.

The Paris Saint-Germain winger had the most dribbles (five) in their opener and was a promising outlet. Germany will need to make sure he isn’t wasted.

SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 22: Joachim Loew, head coach of Germany at a morning run on Adler Beach Boulevard at the team Hotel Radisson Blu Paradise Resort & Spa a on June 22, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

Spring in his step: Germany boss Joachim Loew in Sochi.

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Lionel Messi is limited in Argentina team, admits coach Jorge Sampaoli

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Jorge Sampaoli has admitted Lionel Messi is limited by the current Argentina team, with the two-time World Cup winners facing possible early elimination after a 3-0 loss to Croatia.

The 1978 and 1986 champions could fail to make it out of their group in Russia having picked up just one point from their opening two games following Thursday night’s defeat against the Croatians, who have progressed to the last 16.

Ante Rebic opened the scoring with a second-half volley that was set up by Chelsea goalkeeper Willy Caballero’s error before midfielders Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic added late strikes.

Once again Messi, who had a penalty saved in the draw with Iceland last weekend, was largely anonymous in a tournament where his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo is leading the way to be top scorer.

Sampaoli was asked about comparisons between the two in his post-match press conference and conceded that Messi’s performances are being hindered by those around him.

“I think that because of the reality of the Argentine squad, it sort of clouds Leo’s brilliance,” he said.

Lionel Messi of Argentina looks dejected

“Leo is limited because the team doesn’t gel ideally with him as it should. As coaches we need to realise these things and try to deal with them. I’m the one that needs to accept it.”

Croatia had been handed the lead by Caballero’s blunder as he chipped straight to Rebic to emphatically fire in.

Sampaoli had decided to choose Chelsea’s second-choice stopper between the sticks once Manchester United’s Sergio Romero had been ruled out through injury, and the Argentina boss refused to lay the blame at Caballero’s door.

“The key to our defeat relates to my responsibility because I’m the coach,” he stressed.

“I had to devise a plan for this match. Had I set things up differently, things might have turned out much better. I don’t think it’s realistic to put the burden on Caballero.”

Argentina face Nigeria in their last group game but know even a victory may not be enough to see them through.

Sampaoli was asked if he felt ashamed and embarrassed by his nation’s heaviest World Cup group stage loss since 1958.

“I definitely feel pain,” he replied.

“As a coach it’s been a long time since I’ve gone through this experience and obviously it’s much more painful when I’m wearing the jersey of my country.

caballero

“Our plan for this match didn’t work out. We have to put everything we have in the last opportunity we have to fight, give it our all.

“We have no other alternative. There’s pain because we weren’t at the level the Argentina people expected of us.”

Argentina looked tactically lost at times, with Croatia continually getting joy down both flanks in the first half before boss Zlatko Dalic’s ploy to press higher up the field paid dividends with Caballero’s mistake.

“We knew that the last three of Argentina were a bit weaker and they would break down under pressing,” Dalic revealed.

“The players did everything they were told. We had very good scouts analysing Argentina. We knew that they would play 3-4-3 and we adapted to that.”

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