By James Agberebi:
Croatia booked their place in the round of 16 of the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup following their impressive 3-0 win against Argentina in Group D on Thursday.
At their last meeting at the World Cup in France 1998, Argentina edged Croatia 1-0 in the group stage.
Going into Thursday’s clash, Croatia had lost all four previous meetings against South American teams at the World Cup (Argentina in 1998, Ecuador in 2002 Brazil in 2006 and Brazil again in 2014).
Croatia had the first real chance on goal in the fifth minute through Ivan Perisic who raced into the Argentine box but saw his low strike palmed away for a corner by Willy Caballero.
Maximiliano Meza went close for Argentina in the 13th minute only for Dejan Lovren to deny his goal-bound strike from inside the box with a superb block.
Enzo Perez had a golden chance to put Argentina ahead in the 30th minute following a mix-up in the Croatian defence only to see his low strike go just inches off target.
Two minutes later Mario Mandzukic had a big chance to put Croatia ahead after he appeared on the far post unmarked but saw his glancing header miss the target.
Ante Rebic almost broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time following a break by Croatia but blasted his effort way off target.
Despite being on the back foot early in the second half, it was Croatia who took the lead on 53 minutes as Rebic pounced on a poor clearance by Caballero with a superb volley into an unguarded net. It was Croatia’s first shot at goal.
Argentina almost got the equaliser on 64 minutes only for Ivan Rakitic to deny Messi with a brilliant block for a corner.
A minute later Mandzukic should have extended Croat’s lead but his shot from a low cross hit the side netting.
In the 80th minute, Croatia went 2-0 up following a brilliant long range volley from Modric which flew past Caballero.
Rakitic should have extended Croatia’s lead on 86 minutes but his well struck free-kick came off the cross bar.
In the 91st minute, Rakitic made sure of the win as he walked the ball into the net off a pass after an Argentina player played him onside.