Coach Dalic has turned to midfielder Rakitic for ideas and tactics to stop his Barcelona teammate
Stung by his failure to score a penalty and avert a disappointing draw against Iceland, Argentina’s brilliant forward and captain Lionel Messi would love to make amends in the World Cup Group D match against Croatia on Thursday.
But the Croatians go into the game in ebullient mood after a comfortable 2-0 win over Nigeria, and will look to add to the frustrations of Messi who has failed to replicate the glories of his Barcelona career on the international stage. Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic has unashamedly turned to midfielder Ivan Rakitic — a teammate of Messi’s at Barcelona — for ideas and tactics to stop him.
“I will use all the information I can,” he said, declaring Rakitic his temporary “assistant” before the game.
“There is no perfect way to stop Lionel Messi … he is the greatest player in the world. But while one excellent player can make a great result, a great team does the job much better … We will go into the game a bit more relaxed than them.”
Those who followed closely Argentina’s shaky qualification for the World Cup were not so shocked by the result against Iceland, and do not expect it to roll over Croatia despite its abundance of individual talent.
For reasons hard to fathom, it has looked ponderous and lacking in creative thrust throughout coach Jorge Sampaoli’s year in charge despite boasting Messi and other big names like Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria.