Search icon


21st Jun 2018

Lionel Messi’s reaction to Croatia’s goals says it all

Robert Redmond

Argentina are on the brink of getting knocked out of the World Cup.

One of world football’s most successful nations were taken apart by Croatia on Thursday evening, falling to a 3-0 defeat that leaves them on the verge of an early exit from the tournament in Russia.

Willy Caballero’s howler, Luka Modric’s brilliant goal and a late effort from Ivan Rakitic secured a well-deserved three points and a place in the last-16 for Croatia. It was the European country’s best night at a World Cup since they finished third in France 20 years ago.

For Argentina and Lionel Messi, it was their worst night at international level for quite some time.

Argentina were a shambles from start to finish. Messi was on the edge of the game, and didn’t have much impact.

The Barcelona forward dragged his team to the tournament. But, even Messi couldn’t compensate for his limited teammates, a leaky defence, a calamitous goalkeeper and a manager who switched formation throughout.

A midfield battle between Javier Mascherano and Luka Modric would have been competitive five years ago. On Thursday night, it was a complete mismatch and this was the case all over the pitch. The only surprise about this defeat is that some people are surprised.

Messi only lost his cool once in the game, which was a scrappy affair between two physical teams. The 30-year-old clashed with Ivan Strinic, the Croatia left-back, during the second-half.

Otherwise, he looked detached, including during Caballero’s horrific howler which led to the first goal.

When Argentina conceded again, Messi didn’t give much away as he trotted back to the half-way line.

He just looked defeated, as though he was powerless to prevent his team from losing.

For Croatia’s final goal, Messi just stood helplessly and watched his Barcelona teammate Rakitic tap the ball home.

The strain he was feeling carrying the hopes of the two-time World Cup winners was evident before the match.