WORLD CUP GROUP D REPORT: Argentina 0-3 Croatia

Second-half goals from Ante Rebic, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic guided Croatia to a 2-0 win over Argentina and sealed Vatreni’s progression to the World Cup knock-out stages.

Croatia took the lead after they were handed an absolute gift from goalkeeper Willy Caballero.

Caballero’s howler allowed Rebic to volley home from inside the Argentina twelve-yard box as the goalkeeper’s miss-kicked clearance failed to be cleared outside of his area.

The points were wrapped up, again, thanks to the brilliance of Modric.

The Real Madrid midfielder launched a sublime curling effort from 25 yards out after a dummy allowed him to gain the half yard of space he needed.

Modric’s effort left Caballero was zero chance as the 32-year-old wheeled away in celebration.

Rakitic added insult to injury as he tapped home from around three yards out after another defensive mistake allowed Croatia to waltz in to the Argentine area.

Croatia dominated the early goings of the first-half and could have been in the lead early when Ivan Perisic saw his low shot saved by the Chelsea goalkeeper.

The Inter Milan forward forced a great save from Caballero after he found himself clear outside the Argentine area. He strode past Gabriel Mercado and arrowed a low effort across the six-yard box that required a finger tip save.

Argentina found a foothold in the game after 20 minutes but failed to really trouble Daniel Subasic’s net.

Their best chance was carted out by Lionel Messi as the Barcelona man played an inch-perfect ball to Eduardo Salvio. The Benfica winger glided past his marker and played a low ball back across the box.

Sergio Aguero dummied the pass and let the ball find an onrushing Maxi Meza. However, Meza’s goal-bound effort was directed behind for a corner by Dejan Lovren.

Neither looked exceptionally confident in their defensive backlines, as was evident with Croatia taking the lead.

After the draw with Iceland, Argentina boss Jorge Sampaoli opted to change his system to a three-man backline – with Manchester United’s Marcus Rojo dropping out.

Right-back Gabriel Mercado was drafted in to sit alongside Nicolas Otamendi at the half of defence whilst Nicolas Tagliafico moved over from left-back to play the role as the third man in the middle.

On the flip side, there were chances for Argentina to force their way in behind the Croatian defence – specifically targeting the right-side of Sime Vrsaljko whilst also finding ample chances behind right-sided Ivan Strinic.

Zlatko Dalić’s men were handed a number of gilt-edged chances due to the amount of times the Argentine defence tried to, poorly, play their way out from the back.

However, they could not take an early lead and had to wait until the second period.

Goalscorer Rebic could have saw red for his tackle on Salvio just before he gave his nation the lead.

The Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder’s tackle left Sampaoli fuming and screaming at Uzbeki referee Ravshan Irmatov for a second look through VAR and the subsequent dismissal.

However, the former Chile boss’ calls were waved away as Rebic escaped with only a caution.

Croatia’s progression was secured with two late goals.

Modric added the first before his league rival and national team partner in midfield crime Rakitic then made it clear.

On the flip side, Argentina’s tournament looks on the brink. They will need help from elsewhere before they face Nigeria in the final group game next week in St Petersburg.