No one could have predicted the result of the last match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup matches today. Croatia however, have found a rhythm and they used it it to its full extent against Argentina today.
The midfield dominates as Croatia advance to the knock out stages
In a game where Lionel Messi was billed to star, it was Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić and Marcelo Brozović who stole the show at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium today in Group D. The three midfielders all played their parts to perfection and helped their team to a stunning 3-0 win over Argentina, qualifying for the Round of 16 with one game left to spare.
A poor pass from Danjiel Subašić in the 30th minute allowed Marcos Acuña to win the ball back high up the field and then Dejan Lovren's hesitancy led to a mix up that Enzo Pérez should have scored into an empty net from. Three minutes later, Mario Mandžukić should have put Croatia ahead when he was picked excellently at the far post by Rakitić but he put his header wide. Both Subašić and Willy Caballero gave their teammates and anyone watching anxious moments in the first half as the two goalkeepers were culpable for multiple errors that could have resulted in goals for the opposition. The second half then became a question of which team/goalkeeper would make a fatal error and the answer came in the 53rd minute as Caballero gift-wrapped the opening goal for Croatia. The Argentine goalkeeper mis-kicked his clearance with Ante Rebić bearing down on him and the forward then proceeded to place his volley wonderfully into the top corner, much to Caballero's dismay.
Argentina missed another great chance in the 64th minute and were then subsequently punished by Luka Modrić in the 80th minute when he found himself in space about 30 yards out and bent in a lovely effort that put Croatia two-nil up. Rakitić then made it three in stoppage time after substitute Mateo Kovačić unselfishly squared the ball to the midfielder and he finished low into the corner, ending any hopes Argentina had of getting back into the game.
Croatia will now sit back and look towards a fairly straight-forward final game, knowing their place in the next round has been booked. Argentina on the other hand, are in deep trouble. Depending on what Iceland do against Nigeria tomorrow, they will need to win their remaining game against Nigeria and hope that Croatia beat Iceland for them to qualify. If neither of those results happen then the South American giants will be heading home early.
France puts an end to Peru's World Cup journey
France only needed one goal to book their place in the Round of 16 while also dashing ending Peru's hopes of making it out of the group stages at this edition of the World Cup.
France started off strongly with Paul Pogba trying his luck from a long way out in the 12th minute. His effort had Pedro Gallese scrambling across his goal but he tipped the ball wide of his goal. From the resulting corner, Raphaël Varane nodded his header just wide of the goal as he rose highest to meet the set piece. The Real Madrid CF defender should have scored in that instance but his accuracy was off. As France piled on the pressure, Antoine Greizmann was the next to go for goal as he was the first to reach Olivier Giroud's knock down but his strike on goal was straight at Gallese. Kylian Mbappé was the next to test Gallese as a chip over the Peruvian backline found the Paris Saint-Germain player unmarked inside the penalty area but his touch could not beat Gallese. Mbappé then made up for his miss one minute later when he was the first to the rebound and tucked the ball home into an empty net. Pogba had stolen the ball from Paolo Guerrero and played in Giroud who's effort was saved by Gallese. Mbappé reacted quickest and scored what proved to be the only goal of the game.
Guerrero came closest to getting a goal for Peru in the 31st minute when he took a great first touch that put him past his marker but his point blank effort hit Hugo Lloris when he should have placed the ball either side of the goalkeeper. Mbappé's goal ended up being enough to consign Peru to an early exit and ensure that France had reached the knock out stages.
Denmark and Australia battle it out for a draw
Nothing could separate the other Group C teams as both Australia and Denmark scored one goal each, finishing the match in a one-all draw.
Christan Eriksen broke the deadlock in the seventh minute when he thumped Nicolai Jørgensen's lay off into the roof of the net after a great attacking move by Denmark. Denmark continued to test Australia's backline as Jørgensen went close in the 24th minute but it was Australia that scored the bext goal of the game after VAR awarded them a penalty in the 34th minute. Yussuf Poulsen was adjudged to have handballed inside his own area during an Australian corner and Mile Jedinak converted his second penalty of the tournament with a goal in the 38th minute. The second half had both teams pushing for a winner but neither side could find a winner, leaving both teams with one point from the game.
Both Australia and Denmark still have a chance to finish this group in second going into the last game of their group. Australia play Peru next while Denmark face current group-leaders France. If Australia wins their game and Denmark loses theirs, goal difference will decide who will go through to the next round. However, if Australia don't win against Peru then Denmark will qualify no matter what result they get against France. There's still all to play for in Group C for both teams.