How do you stop Messi? Croatia boss Dalic reveals tactics to contain Argentina star
Getty Images Croatia thumped Argentina 3-0 in the group stages en route to the World Cup final and their head coach has opened up on his game-plan for that match
Zlatko Dalic's side emerged unscathed from their encounter with five-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi in Russia, and the Croatian tactician explains how he managed to contain the lethal forward.
Dalic led Croatia to the World Cup final - making national history in the process - and navigated a tricky-looking group containing South American giants Argentina with relative ease - handing their illustrious opponents a 3-0 drubbing.
However, the head coach was unequivocal about Messi's status as the world's best, despite his ineffectiveness in that game.
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"For me, Leo Messi is the best player in the world, and he is showing that week after week," he told Goal.
Dalic believed that it was the collective strength of his side that saw them past Argentina, who suffered when the supply line to Messi was cut off.
"It's harder for Messi to play for Argentina than Barcelona, and we tried to exploit what we considered small weaknesses in the Argentinian team.
"The key was to be disciplined and to follow our tactical game plan fully, and our players did exactly that. We tried to stop the ball from reaching Messi and to contain him quickly in the areas where he likes to receive the ball.
"As good as Messi is, football is a team sport and if one team performs better than the other it's hard for any individual to turn everything around. Croatia were just a better team than Argentina in that game."
He also leapt to the defence of his star defender Dejan Lovren, who received criticism for proclaiming himself one of the best defenders in the world after reaching the finals of the World Cup and Champions League.Article continues below
"Dejan is a great player and I think he shows that at Liverpool as well," Dalic said.
"It is not easy to play the centre-back position - you depend on the rest of the team. If the team plays well, and everybody is involved in the defensive play, it makes it easier for centre-backs. If they are left exposed in the big areas of the pitch, not even the best ones can stop the best forwards in the game.
"When Liverpool played well as a team, Dejan was also great - just like in the Champions League final where he was one of the best players. Our whole team played good, disciplined football during the tournament, and that makes it easier for the centre-backs, and Lovren and Vida played their part accordingly. He was surely among the best defenders at the World Cup."Source: Google News Argentina | Netizen 24 Argentina