Maradona Exclusive: Lack of support for Messi could trouble Argentina against Croatia


NEW DELHI: Following Argentina’s 1-1 draw against Iceland in their opening fixture of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, football legend Diego Maradona has cautioned his team ahead of their second tie against Croatia. Argentina are rallying around captain Lionel Messi as the South American giants prepare for their crucial Group D clash on Thursday.
Croatia may have secured a vital three points in their 2-0 win against Nigeria in their opening game, but their mood can hardly be described as euphoric. They came into the tournament under a cloud, with captain Luka Modric charged with perjury in a corruption scandal which has rocked Croatian football. Maradona, however, writing in his column for TOI on Thursday, mentioned that despite the off-field problems surrounding Croatia, Arentina will have to come out better prepared.
“You need better planning and an improved performance to beat a pedigree team like Croatia. It will be a different game because Croatia will not camp around the penalty box. They have creativity in the midfield in Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, who are experts at controlling the flow of play,” Maradona wrote.
“The Balkans have always possessed class and you can see a dash of it in this bunch. They are experienced players who know how and when to attack. Mandzukic is a dangerous striker and even against Iceland, there were holes in Argentina’s midfield, visible especially on the breaks. Where the newcomers failed to take advantage, Croatia might not.”
Maradona called the Iceland result a “disgrace” and warned coach Jorge Sampaoli he would not be able to return to Argentina with similar performances. Adding to the sense of disappointment, Messi’s missed penalty was accompanied by 11 unsuccessful shots, the most in a World Cup game without return by a single player since Italy’s Luigi Riva in 1970.
“I said before Argentina’s opening match that Iceland wouldn’t be easy opponents.
The debutants were expected to defend with all their might and they did.