Argentina 0 Croatia 3
Rebric 53 Modric 68 Rakitic 90
Cesc Fabregas is the only pundit I’m enjoying.
Talking about Luka Modric before kick-off, Fabregas said, “Since he went to Real Madrid he went to a different level. He can do a little bit of everything. With Croatia he’s the boss, he knows that, he can play with so much confidence. He plays deep, he goes high, he gets the ball, he’s a general. He makes things happen.”
In those 52 words, Fabregas astutely previewed the match we were about to watch.
Ivan Perisic had the first chance in the fifth minute, firing a low shot which keeper Willy Caballero (Chelsea) tipped past the far post.
There were plenty of tackles and free-kicks in the first 20 minutes but I soon began to think Croatia were the better side and backed them to win at 5/2.
Soon after that I began to wonder when Argentina would have a player sent off.
After 30, when Lucas Perez (River Plate) stroked his shot wide of an open goal, I was relieved and then the contest became tight and absorbing as Croatia played a high defensive line.
At half-time, Fabregas said, “They’re missing Banega.”
Ever Banega of Sevilla is a 29-year old midfielder.
(They were missing your friend Lionel Messi as well, Cesc. He did nothing all game, showed zero leadership).
Fellow BBC pundit Pablo Zabaleta suggested that Argentina should switch to a back four in the second half, since their wing-backs were both really wingers and clueless about defending.
When talk switched to England, one topic was Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Fabregas said, “He looked good when he came on.”
Myself, I’m confident that RLC will looks just as good when he starts against Panama on Sunday
In the second half, I began to have doubts and thought: I can’t see how Croatia are gonna score here.
Suddenly, in 52, a backpass went towards keeper Willy Caballero, who tried to dink the ball to his nearest defender and big striker Rebric jumped backwards and threw himself into a volley that flew just under the crossbar.
Argentina 0 Croatia 1.
Could I think of a goalkeeping clanger as spectacular as this in a World Cup match? Not right now.
Croatia keeper Subotic (Monaco) had to make a good save.
Right back Vrsaljko (Athletic Madrid|) got a yellow card that was fully deserved, Mascherano hit Modric with a brutal bodycheck, Dybala of Juventus came on for Perez.
Then Kramaric (Hoffenheim) came on as a sub.
Then Modric scored a cool goal in 80 with a dream shot from outside the box. It was supercool and so stylish.
The finest goal of the World Cup so far?
As Rakitic was on the ground in 85, Otamendi kicked the ball and the player and was booked.
In the final minute Rakitic strode forward with Kovacic (Fiorentina) on his left and Kramaric on his right. When Rakitic fired a good shot, Caballero saved superbly but the ball went to Kovacic, who could have shot but preferred to give Rakitic a tap-in for 3-0.
Diego Maradona, sitting high in the stand, was crying.
Croatia then brought on defender Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow) for his 100th cap. He played for Spurs between 2008 and 2012 and is still only 32.
Back in the studio, Zabaleta, who played in the 2014 final against Germany, seemed shattered and sounded sick with disappointment. But he still spoke calmly and made sense.
Fabregas said Argentina looked a broken team, playing with five forwards and five defenders, making it easy for Croatia.
Argentina: Caballero, Mercado, Otamendi, Tagliafico, Salvio, Mascherano, Perez, Acuna, Messi, Aguero, Meza.
Subs: Guzman, Ansaldi, Biglia, Fazio, Banega, Higuain, Di Maria, Rojo, Lo Celso, Dybala, Pavon, Armani.
Croatia: Subasic, Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic, Rakitic, Brozovic, Rebic, Modric, Perisic, Mandzukic.
Subs: Livakovic, Corluka, Kovacic, Kramaric, Jedvaj, Bradaric, Caleta-Car, Badelj, Pjaca, Pivaric, Nikola Kalinic, Lovre Kalinic.
Referee: Ravshan Irmatov (Uzbekistan).