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World Cup Groups 2018: Thursday's Live Stream, TV Schedule and Bracket Picks

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IJune 21, 2018

Argentina's Lionel Messi looks on during the group D match between Argentina and Iceland at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Spartak Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, June 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

Lionel Messi and Argentina return to action at the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Thursday as La Albiceleste take on Group D leaders Croatia in what promises to be a key clash.

Elsewhere, the focus is on Group C, with France facing Peru, while Denmark line up against Australia.

Here's a look at how you can watch Thursday's action from Russia.

         

Thursday's Fixtures

Denmark vs. Australia, 4 p.m. local time/1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET: ITV, FS1 (1-1)

France vs. Peru, 8 p.m. local time/4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET: ITV, Fox (2-0)

Argentina vs. Croatia, 9 p.m. local time/7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET: BBC 1, Fox (2-1)

The action can be streamed via the BBC website or ITV Hub in the United Kingdom. In the United States, you can follow all the action via Fox Soccer 2GO.

            

Argentina vs. Croatia

Argentina were held to a draw by Iceland in their opening game and will know they have little margin for error against Croatia, who started off with a win over Nigeria.

Messi missed a penalty against Iceland but will be expected to provide the inspiration for the two-time champions, who are still searching for their best system under manager Jorge Sampaoli.

Sampaoli is expected to make changes for the match, per football writer Peter Coates:

Peter Coates @golazoargentino

Plenty of changes expected for Argentina's match against Croatia on Thursday but reports that Sampaoli has now switched in training to something like a 3-3-3-1 https://t.co/DLbOOVpYEG

The Argentina coach's failure to find a settled lineup has not impressed football writer Roy Nemer:

Roy Nemer @RoyNemer

As one of Sampaoli's biggest defenders, it pains me to say this but the man is lost. A year into his time as coach and still no settled starting XI or formation. I understand tweaks here and there but to change it completely is mad. Hope this new "system" works.

There is an abundance of attacking talent in the squad but finding the right system and providing the right support to Messi is crucial if Argentina are to avoid an early exit.

Croatia top the group after a 2-0 win over Nigeria on Saturday, but they did not have to be at their best to secure the win.

They have also seen striker Nikola Kalinic sent home from the tournament, as noted by Agence France-Presse correspondent Kieran Canning:

Kieran Canning @KieranCanning

"I have calmly accepted that, and since I need my players fit and ready to play, I have made this decision" #CRO #Kalinic

Yet there is still real quality in the team particularly in midfield with Real Madrid's Mateo Kovacic and Luka Modric and Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic.

Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic also carry a real threat in attack, and Croatia will look to take advantage of an Argentina defence that looked vulnerable against Iceland.

           

France vs. Peru

France were one of the few big teams to win their opening game and will be hoping to take another giant step towards the last 16 with another victory.

An Antoine Griezmann penalty and an Aziz Behich own goal helped France beat Australia 2-1 in a hard-fought match.

Manager Didier Deschamps is expected to change his team for the clash with Peru, per football writer Matt Spiro:

Matt Spiro @mattspiro

Deschamps expected to make changes vs Peru. A return to 442 probable with Giroud in for Dembele. Matuidi, Lemar, Fekir, Mendy, Sidibe all pushing for starts

Les Bleus struggled to break down Australia, and Deschamps will demand more from his attacking players on Thursday.

Peru began the tournament with a 1-0 defeat to Denmark although they may feel hard done by; the South Americans created plenty of goalscoring chances and Christian Cueva missed a penalty.

Sports writer Richard Williams felt they did not deserve to lose:

Richard Williams @rwilliams1947

Oh, Peru, you deserved something from that. So much to enjoy.

Peru were the better team against Denmark but were made to pay for missing their chances. They can cause France problems but will need to sharpen up in front of goal to take anything from the match.