Following a disappointing tournament opener against debutant Iceland, crowd-favourite Argentina will face a confident Croatia in Nizhny Novgorod Thursday in a must-win Group D match for the last edition’s finalist.
However, to overcome the Croatians, Argentina must change their playing style and players from the previous match. This journalist got the opportunity to talk to an Argentine journalist, Joaquín Balbis, who was here in Moscow to cover the 2018 Fifa World Cup on behalf of La Voz Del Interior. He looked quite worried before the Croatia game. He is of the opinion that other players should come forward and help Lionel Messi.
“Messi is playing for the team but the team doesn’t play for Messi in reply. The way Argentina played against Iceland, they are playing the same way always. That’s the same problem,” said a worried Balbis.
Balbis expects some must-needed changes in the team. “So now we have to change the system and names. If we don’t win the next match, we will have some real problems. So [Jorge] Sampaoli needs to think and must make some changes. I think Pavon (Cristian) is going to get in, Marcos (Acuna) as well. And some changes in midfield also because Croatia are going to attack Argentina,” he explained.
When queried about Sergio Aguero’s performance he replied, “Aguero was good. He got one chance and scored. [Angel] di Maria, [Eduardo] Salvio, [Lucas] Biglia, [Marcos] Rojo, they created some serious problems.”
Balbis was also not sure about attacker Paulo Dybala’s chances of making it to the starting XI against Croatia.
“He (Dybala) was born in our city (Cordoba) and started playing at a local club, Instituto de Córdoba, in 2011, before joining Palermo. I don’t think Sampaoli is going to let him play in the next match, probably give him some time on the field after a win (is secured). But I am not sure,” he said.
“I will say in this match Argentina can lose or win. But at this moment, if they lose, they are probably out of the World Cup,” he added.
Balbis is also aware of a potential Argentina-France clash in the Round of 16 if the Albiceleste finish second in their group.
“This is another problem. But you need to see this one first, and then Nigeria. France are a very good team, having some good players,” he said.
The World Cup is evenly poised after the tournament favourites, including Argentina, failed to start their campaign on a winning note. The two-time champion need to focus on their own game and give their best effort if they are to get past current group leader Croatia and stay in contention for a place in the Round of 16.