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FIFA World Cup 2018: Blame the Argentina midfield not Lionel Messi, writes Bhaichung Bhutia

Lionel Messi may not have had the best FIFA World Cup 2018 but Argentina’s woes lie in their dreadful midfield, according to former India skipper Bhaichung Bhutia.

football Updated: Jun 23, 2018 10:41 IST
Bhaichung Bhutia
Bhaichung Bhutia
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
FIFA World Cup 2018,Lionel Messi,Argentina football team
Lionel Messi failed to perform as Argentina were beaten by Croatia in their FIFA World Cup 2018 encounter.(AP)

Only one team showed up at Nizhny Novgorod on Thursday night: Croatia. And the LM10 who made the difference was a man who answers to the name of Luka Modric. Argentina lost not because Lionel Messi didn’t get enough of the ball but because their midfield caved in.

The whole point of playing three defenders is to be able to dominate the middle third and Argentina were simply overrun in that area. Javier Mascherano has had many great moments for Argentina but he has definitely outlived his utility. He isn’t the same player of four years ago.

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Argentina also couldn’t prevent Modric from playing balls in the space where full backs would be playing. They were exposed by the fourth minute and Croatia could have put the game to bed even before Willy Caballero’s howler. The collapse of the midfield also meant that transition from defence to attack wasn’t happening fast enough for Argentina to hit Croatia on the break. A swift switch from back to front and not a tapestry of passes usually fetches goals and on that count Argentina floundered.

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The great expectations on Argentina seem totally misplaced after a performance this shambolic. Caballero’s error was the last straw that broke the camel’s back and though Argentina could still get out jail, they need to figure out a way to play Paulo Dybala and Messi. And they could take a number of tips from Croatia on how to be resolute in search of a win. Tactics, formation and finesse help you win, not frenzied running without purpose.

Former Indian football captain Bhaichung Bhutia is writing exclusively for Hindustan Times.

First Published: Jun 23, 2018 10:25 IST