RT special World Cup host Peter Schmeichel says Lionel Messi “didn’t turn up” as Argentina were routed 3-0 by Croatia in their Group D encounter in Nizhny Novgorod.
Messi and Argentina’s World Cup hopes are hanging by a thread after they were thumped by Croatia thanks to second half goals from Ante Rebic, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic.
Croatia’s win booked their placed in the last 16 with one game to spare, while Argentina remain on just one point from their two games after their opening draw with Iceland.
When asked whether the game had been a horror show, goalkeeping great Schmeichel said: “I’m not sure it was a horror movie, why do we care so much about Argentina? We should praise Croatia for what they did tonight," before going on to criticize Messi’s performances so far at Russia 2018.
“We talked about the big players, the big stage, when you come to these big events like the World Cup, the big players they perform.
“Today, Messi, who is a big player, didn’t turn up again, like he didn’t in the game against Iceland,” Schmeichel said.
Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli has openly stated that this is “Messi’s team” – but former Denmark international Schmeichel said that La Albiceleste were now paying for it with the Barcelona star misfiring.
“When you design your team to be around Messi, then you pay for it, and they absolutely paid for it today, they were smashed by Croatia. The scoreline was a fair reflection of the game,” he said.
The game also saw tempers run high on several occasions, as Argentina became increasingly frustrated.
“A rough game, very hardly played, a lot of tempers flaring, surprisingly enough only six yellow cards, no red cards, we were betting there would be at least one red card,” Schmeichel said.
Argentina goalkeeper Willy Caballero’s howler had handed Croatia the chance to open the scoring when he fluffed a clearance, but there was still plenty to do for striker Ante Rebic, who acrobatically turned the ball home in what was described by Schmeichel as “a beautiful” finish.
He also reserved special praise for Croatian playmanker Luka Modric, who scored his second goal of the tournament and was instrumental in much of his team’s play. “Luka Modric is a big player and he’s turned up in this tournament,” Schmeichel said.
Argentina will be watching anxiously as Iceland take on Nigeria in their Group D match tomorrow, and a win for the Vikings in particular could spell doom for Messi and co. The final round of group games is on Tuesday, when Argentina face Nigeria and Iceland take on Croatia.