Luka Modric and co arrived in Russia with the intention to set the record straight. Forget 1998. This generation of Croatian football is just as good if not better, and to date have failed to deliver. Always highly fancied, but never fulfilling what was expected. They have now made light work of a group many thought what tricky to navigate. What have we learned?
1. Midfield Magic
It’s been said before and it will be said again. Croatia boast a midfield selection most international managers can only dream of. If one were to suggest there was a better midfield than the trio of Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Marcelo Brozovic in Russia Croatians would have every right to feel aggrieved and slightly sorry for ignorance.
Let it not be lost on you. Croatia has a midfield that combines two integral pieces of Real Madrid and Barcelona’s machinery to deadly effect. Their woefully undermanned counterparts Argentina? They lined up with Messrs from Hebei Fortune and River Plate. And they thought they could compete! You could hear the chuckles from the Croatian fans a mile away. The gulf in class was noticeable as both Modric and Rakitic stamped their authority on the game in every which way they pleased. Modric and Rakitic helping themselves to the final two goals was just the icing on the cake. Just how far this team goes from here we shall see, but anything less than a semi final should be treated as failure. Croatia have a platform that success should be built on and success should be expected.
2. Don’t Cry for Me Argentina
Let us not ignore the elephant in the room. Argentina are terrible aren’t they? How this has come to pass under Jorge Sampaoli we may never know. We knew in 2016 that Argentina needed to blow up their team and start fresh. This generation of Argentina that had won back to back under 20 World Cups grew up to reach three finals in a row. Failure to grasp one will forever be a stain, but the stains now are of a different and more painful breed.
Again, we KNEW in 2016 that the dead wood needed to be cut from that team. Sampaoli, heralded for creative genius, instead of leading a revolution, stuck to a team that has reached its expiration date. How the likes of Javier Mascherano, Lucas Biglia, Marcos Rojo, Angel di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain and a few more made the flight to Russia is unknown. Given the selections, the results are no surprise to anyone who paid attention. Maybe now we will see the likes of Giovani Lo Celso, Leandro Paredes, Paolo Dybala, Geronimo Rulli, and Fabricio Bustos given the opportunity to fail. It’s just a shame they will likely have to do it without the greatest ever.