Except for Messi, Croatia are better than Argentina - Kovacic

If it can limit the influence of Lionel Messi, Croatia feels it is equipped to beat Argentina at the World Cup, Mateo Kovacic has said.

Lionel Messi of Argentina   -  Getty Images

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

Croatia made a winning start to its Group D campaign by beating Nigeria 2-0 in Kaliningrad on Saturday, as Argentina was 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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