France and Croatia move forward as Argentina's boat starts sinking
France and Croatia moved into the last 16 from Group C and Group D respectively following wins over Peru and Argentina on Thursday
Kylian Mbappé scored the goal that secured France’s passage. It was the 19-year-old’s fifth strike in his 17th international.
Croatia’s marksmen were Ante Rebic, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic on a humiliating night for Lionel Messi’s Argentina who have one point from their two games in Group D.
Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli will come under increasing pressure to quit after the debacle or discover a plan which allows the likes of Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain – all so potent for their championship winning sides of Barcelona, Manchester City and Juventus – to flourish.
"I think because of the reality of the Argentinian squad, it clouds Leo's brilliance,” said Sampaoli. “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 and I'm the one that needs to accept it."
The victory in Nizhny Novgorod enabled Croatia to advance into the knockout stages since 1998 when they finished third.
"From day one I've trusted my team,” said Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic. “I didn't believe we would be through after the second game, but I believed we would be through eventually. Argentina weren't confused, we were excellent."
Two personal milestones were the highlight of France’s victory in Ekatarinburg. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris kept a clean sheet on his 100th appearance for his country and Mbappé became the youngest French goalscorer at a World Cup, aged 19 years and 183 days. David Trezeguet had held the record of 20 years and 246 days.
France, who have six points, face second placed Denmark on Tuesday at the Luzhniki Satdium in Moscow to play for top spot in Group C. Australia could still advance into the knockout stages for the first time since 2006. They take on Peru in Sochi and can prosper if France beat Denmark.
“For me it is only important that we have to beat Peru,” said Australia coach Bert van Marwijk. “I have no influence over the other things. So I don’t think about those things and I won’t lose any sleep over it. Australia must concentrate on Peru.”
Millions of Argentines will, however, be glued to vicissitudes of the match between Iceland and Nigeria. The score line in that game in Volgograd on Friday afternoon could fatally hole their side’s World Cup future.
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