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Willy Caballero howler and Luka Modric stunner puts Lionel Messi and Argentina on brink of World Cup exit

Caballero howler and Modric stunner puts Messi on brink of shocking World Cup exit
Lionel Messi was helpless to prevent Croatia from beating Argentina (Picture: AP)

Lionel Messis reaction said it all. As soon as Ante Rebic thumped in Croatias opener, taking full advantage of a hideous mistake from Willy Caballero, the prospect of a shocking Argentina exit at this World Cup quickly became a reality.

Caballero will justifiably be hounded for his blunder. Attempting to chip the ball over the head of Rebic to Argentine defender Gabriel Mercado, the Chelsea shot-stopper only managed to tee it up perfectly for the Croatian winger.

He still had work to do but made the athletic volley look easy as Croatia, having beaten Nigeria in their opening game in Russia, set their sights on rare back-to-back victories.

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But in truth Argentinas demise had been coming. They barely scrapped through to the World Cup finals and, after failing to beat Iceland last Saturday, failed to find their rhythm again tonight.

The brilliance and creativity of Messi did not appear. If Nigeria beat Iceland on Friday, he is unlikely to play any further part in the tournament.

To win via a fortuitous goal would not have done Croatia justice, however, and they doubled their lead with ten minutes remaining as Luka Modric curled a superb shot past Caballero.

Caballero howler and Modric stunner puts Messi on brink of shocking World Cup exit
Willy Caballeros shocking mistake cost the Argentines (Picture: Getty)

It almost got worse for the Argentinians when Ivan Rakitic struck the crossbar with a thunderous free-kick. But their relief was short-lived; minutes later Rakitic got his deserved goal.

An impressive and emphatic 3-0 victory puts Croatia top of the group and into the last-16s. Argentina – and Messi – may not be joining them.

GROUP STATE OF PLAY

Earlier in the day France defeated Peru and two wins from two games puts them top of Group C and in a strong position ahead of their final game against Denmark on Tuesday.

The Danes draw with Australia means they remain unbeaten but could yet miss out on the knockout stages if they lose to France and the Socceroos beat Peru.

After losing both of their games so far, Peru have joined Egypt, Saudia Arabia and Morocco in exiting the tournament.

In Group D, Croatia are set to finish top after their dominant victory over Argentina, who appear to be heading for the exit door.

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PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY

Caballero howler and Modric stunner puts Messi on brink of shocking World Cup exit
Chelsea midfielder NGolo Kante was a rock for France (Picture: Getty)

The rock that is NGolo Kante was at his very best as France knocked out a resilient Peru side, while ensuring their own qualification to the knockout stages with a 1-0 victory.

The two-time Premier League champion was a constant thorn in Perus side, winning four tackles and breaking up the play expertly after France took the lead through Kylian Mbappe.

Lucas Hernandez, Atletico Madrids French defender, summed up what it is like to be on Kantes team after the game by saying: You see him everywhere. All of a sudden he comes out of the earth!

Frankly, its really amazing to play with a player like that, who gets you back I do not know how many balls in a match. Hopefully he continues to play like this.

PICTURE OF THE DAY

Yekaterinburgs Ekaterinburg Arena was a sight to behold as it played host to todays Group C clash between France and Peru.

Two temporary stands were installed before the tournament started to ensure the stadium met Fifas minimum required capacity of 35,000.

Caballero howler and Modric stunner puts Messi on brink of shocking World Cup exit
Temporary stands have been installed at the Ekaterinburg Arena (Picture: Getty)

The result is a quite stunning stadium with one of the biggest and most striking stands in world football.

Dion Dublin, the former England international, visited the top of the stand for BBC 5 Live and said: This is ridiculous, my legs are actually shaking.

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What an amazing view. Ive never walked down stairs with shaky legs. It looks beautiful.

WHATS ON TOMORROW?

Brazil, who were held to a surprise 1-1 draw against Switzerland on Sunday, will look to secure their first victory at this World Cup when they face Costa Rica in Group E on Friday.

As one of the favourites to win the tournament, they will be determined to put a marker down after their uninspiring result against the Swiss outfit and talisman Neymar is expected to start after shaking off a minor injury in training.

In the same group, Switzerland face Serbia, who currently lead the standings on three points.

In Group D, Nigeria take on Iceland in a fixture that will have major consequences on Argentinas World Cup campaign.

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