Just two games into the world cup, Lionel Messi and Argentina are facing elimination.
The Agentines were demolished 3-0 by Croatia in a game that portrayed the worst Latin Ameican side in history.
Croatia advanced to the knockout stage with the victory. But Argentina’s loss means it must win its final Group D game versus Nigeria, plus get some help with other results, to avoid an embarrassing first-round exit.
Maybe that’s harsh; the world’s best player was everywhere in the opener against Iceland but was closely marked and couldn’t finish, even from the penalty spot.
But those expecting a bounce-back game from the Albiceleste captain would be disappointed.
Messi was less effective in Argentina’s second match than in its first. The harder the 30-year-old tried, the less things seemed to go his way.
Much of that had to do with his supporting cast, of course, as his teammates continue to seem unable or unwilling to give him the ball quickly enough, and in spaces he can exploit with one of his trademark darting runs. But a lot of it was down to the Croatians, whose defensive strategy clearly centered on stopping Messi.