Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic chose his words wisely when discussing their final Group D opponent, Argentina, but his side won’t be backing down when they take on Lionel Messi and Co.
With three points already in the bag for the European nation, Croatia currently sits atop their group, however, Dalic recognizes the task that lies in front of him and his team on Thursday.
“I didn’t say that Argentina was the easiest opponent,” Dalic said. “I said that this was the easiest game for us. We have nothing to lose. We are playing against one of the best.”
Croatia does have the benefit of having won its first match in group play, which has given the side a decided enthusiasm heading into the meeting.
For Ivan Rakitic — who plays at Barcelona with Messi — he believes there isn’t much he or anyone on his team can say or do to further prepare themselves for the Albiceleste.
“What can I tell them that they don’t know?” Rakitic said. “The world knows. Messi is one of the best players in the world. He will have his moments, clearly. It is up to us to stop him, to play the right way against him, and to enjoy the match and play our best.
“It’s a beautiful thing to play against one of the best teams in the world. We are especially motivated.”
In four all-time meetings, Argentina leads 2-1-1 against Croatia, including a 1-0 victory during the 1998 World Cup in France.
The two teams last met in 2014 following Argentina’s World Cup final defeat to Germany, with Messi and Co. earning a 2-1 victory over Croatia.Follow @MattReedFutbol