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By Abdulkabir Olatunji
Croatia just destroyed Argentina 3-0 in a Group D game with 2nd half goals from Ante Rebic, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic.
These are my top 10 takeaways from that game:
1. The Nigerian Team is not as Awful as We Made it
I was one of the few people that said that the Croatian team is a very good team from the first game and simply bossed the Super Eagles in the first match. Playing against arguably the best player in the world in Lionel Messi, the quality of the team really showed.
2. Messi is Only One Man
Messi for me is the best player in the world but that is exactly the problem. He cannot be the best team by himself. Other players have to step-up in Argentina colours.
3. Did Argentina even go the World Cup with their Best Striker?
I don’t think so. Not having Inter Milan captain, Mauro Icardi in the team is almost criminal. If not for anything else, because of his passion and leadership qualities. As captain of Inter Milan, he is one player that understands how a team with pedigree has to battle for every win. Rumour has it that Messi is not a big Icardi fan but that should not have prevented him from making the Argentina squad.
4. Argentina Have a Team Selection Crisis
What group of players can play with Messi to achieve optimal results? What role should the likes of Paulo Dybala, Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero play? Can Argentina win big matches without Messi? If so using what formation? These are all questions that Argentinians have to find ways to effectively answer.
5. Nigeria Can Defeat this Argentina Team
Nigeria can defeat this Argentina team if we sort out our selection travails and face them without fear. It helps to know we won the last time we met them. Admittedly without Messi. However, he has been poor so far in this World Cup. He can be neutralized with a proper game plan.
6. Nigeria Against Iceland is Now a Bigger Battle
Iceland will feel that a win against Nigeria might be all they need to effectively qualify for the 2nd round. This added incentive will not be lost on a team that scarcely needs additional motivation. Nigeria needs the win to have leverage over Argentina in the last game. Win against Iceland tomorrow and you have a big chance to qualify even with a draw against Argentina. Doable and not impossible, we should see how tomorrow’s game plays out. With Croatia already qualified for the 2nd round, the other qualification ticket from the group is still up for grabs.
7. Ronaldo Would Win if the World Best Player Would Be Selected Today
Cristiano Ronaldo leads the scoring chart so far with 4 goals in 2 matches, his 2 major rivals this year are having forgettable World Cup performances so far, Mo Salah knows his next game against Saudi Arabia will be his last in this tournament. He has a penalty goal to show so far . Messi has nothing in terms of goals having lost a penalty against Iceland and made little or no sparkle. All of this may still change though. Football is not always as straightforward as people want to think. What if Portugal fail to qualify for the 2nd round and Argentina do?
8. Croatia Might Have the Best Midfield in the Tournament
The combination of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic are like a duo of magicians leaving opponents spellbound.
Their combination and the Croatian team in general will take some beating.
9. Cut Mikel Obi some Slack
Mikel Obi failed to be effective against Croatia, same thing happened to Messi, Aguero and Higuain. This is not by accident. Croatia are set-up in a way to neutralize the threat of opponents. Give Mikel some support, he could still shine at this world even as a No.10 — Jose Mourinho take note.
10. It is Not Yet Over for Messi and Argentina
Argentina are a team that can play terribly and ugly, yet, still reach World Cup finals. It happened with Maradona in 1990 and with Messi in 2014. Barring some poor finishing from Higuain, they might have been current defending champions.
With the desire to fight till the end and some luck, they might just make it into the Round of 16 and after that anything can happen.
So, unless and until they are completely knocked out, don’t rule Argentina out.