LIVE: Argentina vs Croatia

9′ A moment later, Mandzukic has the favour returned as Tagliafico catches him on the foot and Croatia are awarded a free-kick deep in their own half.

7′ Mandzukic clatters Otamendi as the two chase a ball in the Argentina half and the latter wins a free-kick, though he takes a moment to get gingerly back to his feet.

5′ Mascherano is the hero for Argentina as he clears the set-piece at the second attempt following a nervy moment in the box following the inswinging set-piece. Croatia will be all too aware of their opposition’s defensive flaws and their liability to be caught out at the back.

4′ Strong attacking work from Argentina has kept Croatia mostly pinned in their own half but then Perisic sets off flying down the left flank with the ball to force them into defence. The attacking midfielder cuts in and spears a low shot in; Caballero gets his fingertips to it and pushes it away for a corner.

2′ Rakitic is almost dispossessed by Aguero as the Croatian midfielder looks to bring the ball away from his own box; he manages to hold onto it before slipping a throughball down the centre for Modric which Perez picks up instead.

1′ We’re underway in Nizhny Novgorod! Argentina create the first attacking move, with Messi playing off Meza down the left flank, only for Vrsaljko to turn them both around and force them back with some stern defending.

The anthems are over and we’re moments away from kick-off. The referee today is Ravshan Irmatov of uzbekistan, taking charge of his 10th World Cup game in three tournaments.

The teams are out at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium for the national anthems.

Messi set a personal record for the number of shots he has attempted in a single World Cup game against Iceland, firing the ball at the net an impressive 11 times. He of course failed to score – and as such has not had a goal in 21 successive World Cup shots.

Croatia defender Vedran Corluka is on the bench for his country today, but if he gets on, will make win his 100th cap for his country, becoming the second member of their World Cup squad to do so after Luka Modric.

The pair have met on four previous occasions, with Messi scoring the winner on their last encounter in a 2014 friendly – but they have only clashed once at the World Cup. They faced off in the group stages of France 1998; Mauricio Pineda’s strike proved to be the goal to give Argentina the victory.

Dalic’s side weren’t the most convincing of winners despite their 2-0 margin against Nigeria, relying on a penalty and an own goal – and the coach has faced further difficulties off the pitch this week in the shape of striker Nikola Kalinic, who has been sent home from the World Cup. Kalinic refused to come on off the bench Croatia’s Group D clash, as he had previously against Brazil in a warm-up friendly, citing a back issue; no other player has been allowed to be called up to the squad in his place.

Sampaoli’s team thought they were headed for victory over minnows Iceland when Maximiliano Meza was fouled for a penalty in the 64th minute with the scores locked. Yet captain Lionel Messi saw his tame effort saved by Hannes Halldorsson and La Albiceleste couldn’t find a way through for the rest of the game, leaving Argentina winless in their opening game of a World Cup for the first time since Italy 1990 when they were shocked by Cameroon. Can they offer a roaring riposte today in Nizhny Novgorod?

Subs: Josip Pivaric, Vedran Corluka, Dominik Livakovic, Marko Pjaca, Lovre Kalinic, Tin Jedvaj, Mateo Kovacic, Andrej Kramaric, Duje Caleta-Car, Filip Bradaric, Milan Badelj

CROATIA (4-5-1): Danijel Subasic; Domagoj Vida, Ivan Strinic, Sime Vrsaljko, Dejan Lovren; Marcelo Brozovic, Ivan Perisic, Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric, Ante Rebic; Mario Mandzukic

Subs: Franco Armani, Paulo Dybala, Ever Banega, Cristian Ansaldi, Marcos Rojo, Lucas Biglia, Gonzalo Higuain, Ángel Di Maria, Federico Fazio, Nahuel Guzman, Giovani Lo Celso, Cristian Pavon

ARGENTINA (3-4-3): Willy Caballero; Nicolas Tagliafico, Nicolas Otamendi, Gabriel Mercado; Eduardo Salvio, Javier Mascherano, Enzo Perez, Marcos Acuna; Maximiliano Meza, Lionel Messi; Sergio Aguero

As for Croatia, they make just the one alteration to the team who claimed a two-goal victory over Nigeria in Kaliningrad; striker Andrej Kramaric is dropped to the bench as manager Zlatko Dalic favours a stockier midfield, with Marcelo Brozovic the man to replace him.

Team news now as we await kick-off and Argentina have switched it up for their penultimate game of the group stages as they look to bounce back from their lacklustre first-game showing. Angel Di Maria is among a trio of players dropped from the starting XI, alongside Marcos Rojo and Lucas Biglia, as Jorge Sampaoli opts to ring the changes; they are replaced by Marcos Acuna, Gabriel Mercado and Enzo Perez respectively. 

Hello and welcome to live coverage of the 2018 World Cup in Russia as Argentina and Croatia meet in the third game of Group D at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium. La Albiceleste are looking to put themselves in the driving seat for the knockout stages after being held to a draw by Iceland in their opening clash – but with their opponents looking to secure a place in the round of 16 on the back of their defeat in Nigeria, will the 2014 runners-up have enough to get the three points?

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