Croatia are obviously going to have a scheme to thwart Argentina captain Lionel Messi from having as little influence in the outcome of the match as possible. However, the schemes will likely work on ideas.
Against Iceland, Argentina’s ball-circulation was slow and cumbersome, meaning that Iceland were able to maintain their defensive block without much difficulty. Because the other players did so little during the game, it got increasingly easier for Iceland to thwart Messi.
Messi still did manage a high number of shots, mostly from outside the box but he also provided the lobbed through that resulted in a penalty – but Messi failed to convert from the spot.
Having watched Iceland defend, Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic got a few ideas about how to stop the diminutive Argentine.
“There is no perfect way to stop Lionel Messi. He shot 10 times last night, but we must stop his attacks by compactness. The Croatia coach however acknowledged that Messi is the greatest.
“I think he is the greatest player in the world - but while one excellent player can make a great result, a great team does the job much better,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying.
What about Croatia’s secret weapon? The coach said he will turn to Croatia midfielder and Messi’s Barcelona teammate Ivan Rakitic for help.
Dalic wants suggestions from Rakitic on how best to frustrate his Barcelona team mate.
“Of course, Rakitic will be my assistant for the next three days, and we will certainly look for some advice on how to stop Messi,” he said.
“I always ask my players about such things and about many other things, I love communicating and I am happy to accept every tip.
“Ivan likes it too and he will tell me, I will use all the information I can,” he said.
Real Madrid star Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic have the experience of coming up against Messi in several occasions.
“Luka and Kovacic will also help. “They played against him and (their former Real Madrid coach Zinedine) Zidane was prepared for such things,” Dalic said.
So expect a man-marking scheme with Rakitic, Modric and even Kovacic trying to cut out Messi’s supply line or sticking to him like shadows.
Having beaten Nigeria 2-0, Dalic’s team are top of Group D with three points and will play Argentina on June 22nd at Nizhny Novogorod.