Argentina found themselves on the wrong end of a 3-0 defeat to Croatia on Thursday, a result which leaves their World Cup survival in the balance.
Both sides had chances to score in the first half, with Mario Mandzukic heading wide from close range and Enzo Perez firing wide when presented with an (almost) open goal.
After the break, the shaky Argentinians eventually conceded after a dreadful error from Willy Caballero, with the Chelsea reserve ‘keeper misjudging a unnecessarily deft pass that set up Ante Rebic to volley home.
In the second half, Argentina boss Jorge Sampaoli sent on Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain and Cristian Pavón to get his side back into the game.
However, it was Croatia who would score next, with the outstanding Luka Modric producing a superb curling effort from 20 yards which evaded the diving arms of Caballero.
With his team utterly reliant on him, Lionel Messi struggled to make the requisite impact as Argentina failed to match as effervescent Croatian side in almost every regard.
In injury time, Messi’s Barcelona teammate, Ivan Rakitic, would score from close-range to seal a deserved 3-0 win which puts the Croatian into the last 16.
The Albiceleste now face the possibility of missing out on a last 16 berth, if Iceland beat Nigeria on Friday and then draw with Croatia in their final game – and it’s nothing that they don’t deserve.
As things are shaping up, 2018 could prove to be a serious low point in both Messi and Argentina’s recent World Cup history.