Argentina vs. Croatia: Team News, Live Stream, TV Info for World Cup 2018

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IJune 20, 2018

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 16: Lionel Messi of Argentina controls the ball during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group D match between Argentina and Iceland at Spartak Stadium on June 16, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Lionel Messi's Argentina go in search of their first win at the 2018 FIFA World Cup as they take on Group D leaders Croatia on Thursday.

The Albiceleste were held to a surprise draw by Iceland in their opening game with Messi missing a penalty as the game finished 1-1.

It was a different story for Croatia as they beat Nigeria 2-0 to top the group after the first round of fixtures.

          

Date: Thursday, June 21

Time: 9 p.m. local time/7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET

Venue: Nizhny Novgorod Stadium

Live Stream: BBC Sport Live (UK), Fox Soccer Match Pass (U.S.), fuboTV (U.S.)

TV Info: BBC One (UK)/Fox (U.S.)

        

Team News

Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli is expected to make changes to his team and has been tinkering with his formation in training.

He could change to a back three of Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi and Nicolas Tagliafico, with Marcos Acuna and Cristian Pavon coming in for Lucas Biglia and Angel Di Maria in midfield, per Associated Press (h/t ESPN FC).

Croatia will be unable to call upon forward Nikola Kalinic after he was sent home from the World Cup for refusing to appear as a substitute in the win over Nigeria as he said he had a back injury, per BBC Sport.

          

Time For Messi To Make His Mark In Russia

The 2018 World Cup is widely seen as Messi's last chance to win the tournament for Argentina as he will be 34 by the time the competition heads to Qatar in 2022.

Messi endured a frustrating opening game as he missed a penalty and could not find the target despite having plenty of shots on goal, per Opta:

Football writer Andrew Gaffney explained the difficulty Messi has at international level:

The draw puts Argentina under pressure ahead of their final two games as they seek to qualify for the knockout stages.

The introduction of Pavon into the starting XI may pay dividends. The Boca Juniors forward looked far more dangerous than Di Maria when he was introduced against Iceland.

Spanish football journalist David Cartlidge said Pavon and Ever Banega must start:

Sampaoli has yet to find the best lineup for his team, but he has little room for error now. Messi has the ability to produce moments of magic, but he will need his team to step up if they are to avoid an early exit.

         

Croatia Eyeing Top Spot In Group D

Croatia's midfielder Luka Modric (2nd L) celebrates scoring a penalty with his teammates during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group D football match between Croatia and Nigeria at the Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad on June 16, 2018. (Photo by Patrick HERT
PATRICK HERTZOG/Getty Images

Unlike their opponents, Croatia head into Thursday's game with little pressure and know a victory will put them in pole position to finish as group winners.

Topping the group offers the opportunity to play the team who finish second in Group C, which consists of France, Denmark, Australia and Peru.

Croatia do not appear to lack for confidence, and Real Madrid midfielder Mateo Kovacic has said his team should not fear Argentina, per Goal's Harry Sherlock.

He said: "We do not need to be too afraid of Argentina, we are singularly better than them, except Messi, and so we should behave, look at ourselves, not others."

Kovacic was left on the bench for Croatia's opening game against Nigeria, which shows their strength, as noted by sports writer Andy West:

Argentina can ill-afford to drop any more points on Thursday, and Croatia will know that stopping Messi will be key if they are to achieve a positive result.

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