Argentina were expected to top the table in most World Cup 2018 Group D predictions but now have it all to do just to qualify.
La Albiceleste have picked up just one point from two matches and are 7/10 to reach the knockout rounds going into the final set of fixtures.
Croatia are already assured of a place in the last 16 after following up a 2-0 defeat of Nigeria by beating Argentina 3-0.
Standings Group D
Jorge Sampaoli has admitted that the rest of the Argentina team is struggling to provide sufficient support for Lionel Messi to shine at Russia 2018.
The head coach said: “I think that because of the reality of the Argentine squad, it sort of clouds Leo’s brilliance.
“Leo is limited because the team doesn’t gel ideally with him as it should.
“As coaches, we need to realise these things and try to deal with them. I’m the one that needs to accept it.”
Croatia went into the tournament as dark-horses to lift the trophy and certainly impressed in the second half of their 3-0 triumph over La Albiceleste.
Ante Rebic opened the scoring with a second-half volley that was set up by Chelsea goalkeeper Willy Caballero’s error before midfielders Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic added late strikes.
“We knew that the last three of Argentina were a bit weaker and they would break down under pressing,” Zlatko Dalic revealed.
“The players did everything they were told. We had very good scouts analysing Argentina. We knew that they would play 3-4-3 and we adapted to that.”
|Argentina vs Iceland||1 - 1||Spartak Stadium|
|Croatia vs Nigeria||2 - 0||Kaliningrad Stadium|
|Argentina vs Croatia||0 - 3||Nizhny Novgorod Stadium|
|Nigeria vs Iceland||2 - 0||Volgograd Stadium|
|Iceland vs Croatia||1 - 2||Rostov Arena|
|Nigeria vs Argentina||1 - 2||Saint Petersburg Stadium|
Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr was pleasantly surprised by his side’s 2-0 victory against Iceland as he feels they will be an even better proposition at the next World Cup.
Leicester striker Ahmed Musa struck a superb second-half double and also crashed another fierce shot against the crossbar.
“What I like in my young team is humility, solidarity and fighting spirit,” said Rohr.
“I thought before this World Cup we were here to learn. I think this team will be ready in 2022 and this World Cup is coming early, but we have a good chance to win against Argentina.”
Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson remained upbeat despite seeing Everton midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson miss an 83rd-minute penalty for his side.
“It’s a strange fact that we are still in the race,” Hallgrimsson said.
“We’ve played Croatia four times in four years and we’ve often said we’re like a married couple trying to get divorced but we always meet up again.
“They’ve had two really, really good performances in the World Cup. The last one was a shining example of how good Croatia is.
“But that also gives us confidence because we were ahead of them in our (qualifying) group and have already beaten them once in Iceland.”