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Except for Messi, Croatia are better than Argentina - Kovacic

19 June 2018 12:28

Mateo Kovacic and Ante Rebic feel Argentina are too dependent on Lionel Messi and claim Croatia have a great chance of overcoming Jorge Sampaoli's side at the World Cup, if they can keep the Barcelona superstar quiet.

Croatia made a winning start to their Group D campaign by beating Nigeria 2-0 in Kaliningrad on Saturday, as Argentina were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw by Iceland.

The clash between La Albiceleste and Zlatko Dalic's team in Nizhniy Novgorod on Thursday could decide which of the two fancied nations secures a favourable passage to the round of 16, should they both advance.

And Real Madrid midfielder Kovacic, who is well acquainted with Messi from duels between LaLiga's fiercest rivals, understands the importance of limiting his influence. 

"Argentina depends a lot on Messi, although they are a great team and one must be careful about other positions," he said.

"You cannot just prepare for one player [to mark Messi] … it is [better to deal with him] collectively, one on one is quite difficult. The coaching staff will prepare tactics well for him. 

"We do not need to be too afraid of Argentina, we are individually better than them, except Messi, and so we have… to look at ourselves, not others."

Winger Rebic agreed with the assessment of his team-mate, saying: "Against Argentina we have to be united, Messi is 50 percent of the team, if we defend … all together, we have a great chance."

Kovacic and Rebic's confident verdict their team's prospects comes despite Nikola Kalinic having left the squad due to a back problem.

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