Croatia became the fourth team to advance to the knockout stage of the 2018 World Cup thanks to a comprehensive 3-0 defeat of Argentina on Thursday night. Combined with the 2-0 win over Nigeria in their first game, Croatia thus emerge from Group D, the consensus Group of Death, without even conceding a goal. They might concede against Iceland, in their final group match, but it will be academic at that point.
Argentina’s continued over-reliance on Messi as well as their inexplicable decision to play without a proper midfield came back to bite them hard. Introducing attacking player after attacking player — they finished the game with Messi, Dybala, Higuain, Pavon, Meza, and Acuna all on the pitch — isn’t a foolproof solution, as it turns out. The could still advance however, if Nigeria beat Iceland tomorrow and then Argentina beat Nigeria next week.
It might have turned out differently had Willy Caballero not gifted the opening goal to Croatia, but Argentina lacked the fight, the composure, and the gameplan to beat the once again quite physical (and quite skilled) Croatian team.
Joining Croatia in the knockout round earlier today were France, who also notched their second victory of the group stage by beating Peru 1-0. Kylian Mbappe’s first-half goal — which he pretty much stole off Giroud, who started and played the full game — was the only one that was needed, though Peru did hit the post in the second-half.
But the real star for France was N’Golo Kante, which shouldn’t be a surprise to us but may still be news to the rest of the world. Well done, the Twins!
HT | France 1-0 Peru - N'Golo Kanté has just put in one of the best 1st half performances of any professional footballer in 2018; Deschamps' decisions so far paying off.— Get French Football News (@GFFN) June 21, 2018
You have to solve a series of ancient riddles before Kante can let you pass— Zito (@_Zeets) June 21, 2018
In Group C’s earlier game, Denmark and Australia battled to a 1-1 draw, which kept both of them alive for the knockout round. Denmark, who currently have 4 points, will have to play France while Australia, who have 1, will play Peru on the final matchday of the group stage. Depending on the outcome of those games, we might have to dive pretty deep in the tiebreaker procedures.
Good to see Andreas Christensen play the full game for the Danes, putting in a solid though certainly not flawless shift.