(Xinhua) -- Millions of hearts were
broken by the 3-0 defeat of World Cup favorites Argentina in the
game facing Croatia at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on Thursday in
With just one point from two group games, Jorge
Sampaoli’s team is now on the brink of elimination. What’s done
is done. But looking back to just a few weeks before the
tournament, we may find that the seeds of the tragedy have
already been sown.
Mauro Icardi, 25, was pinned high hopes to help Argentineans
when he brought Serie A side Inter Milan back to the Champions
League after six seasons, but his fantastic attacking ability
was denied by Sampaoli.
Icardi was included in Sampaoli’s preliminary list of 35
players announced on May 14.
The Inter captain and the league’s best striker scored 29
goals in Serie A.
However, Sampaoli’s final choice of not bringing Icardi to
Russia was based on "players that can do many functions to give
us different characteristics," said the coach in a press
conference before the tournament kicked off.
Facing the stronger and taller defenders from Iceland and
Croatia, neither Lionel Messi nor Kun Aguero could create a good
chance by themselves.
The Argentine wingers have tried their best to keep crossing
over, but the world-class strikers failed to bring down the
With Icardi on the field, the situation might be very
"Inside the penalty area, Icardi has no equal on a global
"When a cross arrives, he is deadly.
"If you want to build moves with central passing, then
Gonzalo Higuain or Sergio Aguero are more suited, but if you do
like Inter with tons of crosses flung into the box, where are
you going to get anyone better than Icardi?" said Argentinean
legend Jorge Crespo.
Sampaoli’s four attackers formation turned out incompatible
with Argentina’s original system.
Without Icardi, the team couldn’t realize Sampaoli’s
intention to make effective attacks.
To make things worse, the team couldn’t defend their goal
with the absence of another key player.
Sergio Romero injured his knee last month in the run-up to
The No. 1 Argentinean goalkeeper said he could recover before
the World Cup, but the team went without him.
When Willy Caballero’s poor play contributed the first blood
to his opponent on Thursday, Romero was missed by all
The last straw seemingly happened to be the core of the
team—Lionel Messi, who has been considered as the king to bring
his people to victory.
However, football is not a one-man game.
It is probably the team’s awe of him that has torn the team
When Messi lost a penalty chance in Argentina’s 1-1 draw with
Iceland, he was reportedly too frustrated to talk to anyone
after that match.
To cheer him up, Argentina Football Association invited
Messi’s wife Antonella Rocuzzo to Russia to console the team’s
No. 1 star.
However, his overwhelming emotion kept him from carrying out
his duties as a captain to encourage his teammates who were just
as upset as he was.
Crespo once told Italian media that Icardi couldn’t be named
on the final 23-men list because the forward isn’t Messi’s
Whether it is true or not, the 2014 World Cup runners-up seem
to have locker room problems.
When the team fell behind 1-0 on Thursday, few midfielders
ran back to deal with Croatian counter-attacks.
Instead, players were witnessed by the huge audience
complaining about their teammates’ faults on the field.
A team falling apart will inevitably fall from the top.
There is still a shred of hope for Messi’s World Cup dream.
Nigeria defeated Iceland 2-0 Friday in the second round of
group games, raising a slim possibility of Argentina entering
the elimination period.
If the Messi wants to lead his team to advance to the last
16, they must smash Nigeria in its third group match first.
The two Nigerian players John Mikel and Odion Ighalo, who
played in the Chinese Super League, are good at playing
It would also be more favorable for Argentina if Croatia stay
unbeaten against Iceland in the third round of group games.
public downhearted after team’s 3-0 loss to Croatia
BUENOS AIRES Argentina (Xinhua) --
Crestfallen and dejected, the
Argentinian public reacted grimly to their team’s 3-0 defeat at
the hands of Croatia in the 2018 Russia World Cup on Thursday.
In Plaza San Martin, a park in northern Buenos Aires, many
thousands of fans had turned up to watch their team’s second
game in Group D. They left disappointed.
"That’s it, we’re out," said the most pessimistic of fans.
Others, intent on remaining positive in the face of a vicious
drumming, refused to give up hope.
"We can still do it," they said.
Manager Jorge Sampaoli was heavily criticized for the
inclusion of goalkeeper Willy Caballero.
The Chelsea shot-stopper, who made only three Premier League
appearances last season, committed a terrible error to gift
Croatia their first goal.
Surveys showed that more than 80 percent of fans preferred
Franco Armani, a keeper who has been in exceptional recent form
for Argentinian team River Plate, but Sampaoli did not budge.
"I’m disappointed and really annoyed, but such is football.
"Caballero has left us without hope.
"We’ll see if Armani goes for the next game and if we can
make it to the knockouts," said one fan.
"We don’t have a goalkeeper," another fan said.
"In the first game (against Iceland) Caballero didn’t inspire
"We all knew we had to use Armani."
Wrapped in Argentinian colors, fans in Plaza San Martin
suffered with every goal scored against their team.
Argentina’s Lionel Messi, considered by many to the greatest
footballer of all time, could not affect the game.
Pablo, a young Buenos Aires native, said:
"I’m hurt because Messi didn’t deserve what happened today.
"They left him isolated, he couldn’t touch the ball, couldn’t
find a goal."
Others were more scathing.
"It was awful, a total mess. We’re hoping that Nigeria beat
Iceland on Friday."
Aldo, a Colombian tourist who was also watching the game,
criticized the lack of spirit.
"You have to play as a team," he said, "and they didn’t do
Despite being World Cup finalists in 2014, Argentina managed
only a draw against Iceland on Saturday before the loss to
Croatia on Thursday.
They must now beat Nigeria and hope that other results go
Nigeria striker Musa vows
to score in match against Argentina in World Cup
VOLGOGRAD Russia (Xinhua) --
Forward Ahmed Musa scored twice to help
Nigeria beat Iceland 2-0 Friday to keep their advancing hopes
alive and he vowed to strike again in the last group match
against Argentina in the ongoing World Cup in Russia.
"I think scoring against Argentina isn’t that hard," said
"We know the match against Argentina is very important. It’s
do or die."
Croatia has collected six points out of two wins to lead the
group and if Nigeria is able to defeat Argentina in the last
round, the African side will advance into last 16 with Croatia
and send Argentina packing.
"I can remember four years ago, I scored two goals while
playing against Messi’s Argentina," he said.
"And when I played for Leicester in 2016 I played against
Barcelona in a friendly and Messi is also playing, and I scored
another two goals."
"So I think next game anything can happen.
"It’s possible that I’m going to score another two goals," he
Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr:
We can knock Argentina out of World Cup
VOLGOGRAD Russia (Xinhua) --
Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr admitted his side had
improved after the break as Ahmed Musa scored two goals to give
his side a 2-0 win against Iceland in Volgograd on Friday.
The win leaves Nigeria in second place in Group D, knowing at
a draw in their last game against an Argentina side in crisis
will almost certainly see them into the last 16.
"It is a final in the group," admitted Rohr, looking ahead to
the game against Argentina.
"We recently played them (Argentina) in a friendly in
Krasnodar and we beat them 4-2 although there was no Messi,"
commented the Nigeria boss.
Rohr highlighted that Nigeria were an inexperienced side and
would have to avoid errors in their penalty area.
"We have had two games and conceded two penalties, and both
were committed by young players.
This World Cup comes a bit early for us and we will be better
in 2022, but we have a good chance of beating Argentina," he
commented, adding that the key on Friday was "to make good
counter-attacks, we are a bit faster than Iceland and maybe we
have the technical ability to play one or two touches."
Icelandic boss, Heimir Hallgrimsson admitted his side were
below their best and put that down to a combination of
temperatures of over 30 degrees centigrade in the Volgograd
Arena and the effectiveness of Nigeria.
"It wasn’t a great game and we have played better, but I
thought we all did our best, it could have been the high
temperatures, but Nigeria played very well and they were hard to
face today," he said.
"The first half was more or less as we wanted, it was 0-0 at
the break, but the goal at the start of the second half, changed
things: we had to push forward and Nigeria are very quick on the
"They were organized and first to the second ball and we have
to give them credit," said Hallgrimsson.
"My players gave everything and all we have to do now is beat
Croatia (to qualify).
"We’ve played them four times in four years and we’re like a
married couple that wants a divorce," he said with a smile.