Willy Caballero's clanger presented Ante Rebic with an opportunity he could not refuse, and Croatia rolled on to a stunning 3-0 victory over Argentina that sent them into the last 16 of the World Cup.
Jorge Sampaoli's side produced an abysmal second-half display that severely damages their hopes of following Croatia out of Group D, with Caballero's stray pass to Gabriel Mercado that was volleyed home by Rebic in the 53rd minute proving the turning point.
Any hopes of a late Argentina fightback were extinguished 10 minutes from time as the irrepressible Luka Modric whipped a fine strike into the bottom-right corner from just outside the penalty area.
Argentina had all but given up by the closing stages and they were punished further in stoppage time when Ivan Rakitic tapped in from close range with barely a defender in sight.
All eyes were on Lionel Messi before the game after his saved penalty in the South Americans' opening 1-1 draw with Iceland and, once again, he was a shadow of the player that has starred for Barcelona.
Messi cut an isolated figure throughout and was unable to rouse his side in the closing stages, leaving them in danger of needing a win and a swing in goal difference to reach the knockout stages.
Argentina brought in Marcos Acuna, Enzo Perez and Mercado after the draw with Iceland and started sluggishly, almost falling behind after just five minutes.
Ivan Perisic surged into space down the left and cracked a shot towards the bottom-right corner, which was superbly tipped around the post by Caballero – only starting in Russia due to a knee injury for regular number one Sergio Romero.
Sampaoli's men were far from fluid in attack in the early stages, but did twice come close to breaking the deadlock.
A superb Dejan Lovren block prevented Maximiliano Meza's low strike finding the net and then Acuna's whipped cross clipped the top of Danijel Subasic's crossbar.
Perez squandered a golden opportunity to score at the half-hour mark, conspiring to strike wide of an almost open goal from 15 yards after some haphazard Croatia defending.
Mario Mandkuzic somehow failed to find the back of the net just three minutes later, stealing in unmarked at the back post and flashing a header wide of Caballero's right-hand post from six yards.
There was still time for one more act of profligacy before the interval when Rebic made a mess of Modric's wonderful pass behind the Argentina backline, thumping well over.
There was no such wastefulness from Rebic eight minutes into the second period, as he unerringly rifled a volley past Caballero after the goalkeeper's chip lacked the power to evade him.
Argentina almost bounced back soon after, but Subasic kept out Meza's close-range effort from substitute Gonzalo Higuain's cutback and they were unable to bundle the rebound home.
A leveller scarcely looked likely after that and their miserable night was compounded when Modric curled in superbly from 20 yards.
Rakitic was fouled by Javier Mascherano – Nicolas Otamendi receiving a booking for appearing to kick the ball towards the consequently prone Barca midfielder's head as tempers flared – and crashed the resulting free-kick against the crossbar.
There was no denying Rakitic in the 91st minute, though, as he slotted home from the centre of the box after Mateo Kovacic's initial shot was saved by Caballero, making a premature exit a distinct possibility for the two-time champions.
Key Opta stats:
- This was Argentina's heaviest defeat in the first-round group stages of a World Cup tournament since losing 6-1 to Czechoslovakia in 1958.
- Ante Rebic's goal was only his second for Croatia, and his first since August 2013 in a friendly against Liechtenstein.
- Argentina have failed to win either of their opening two group stage matches for the first time since 1974.
- Argentina are now winless in their last four World Cup games (D2 L2), their longest ever such run in the competition.
- Argentina forward Lionel Messi has had more shots than any other player so far at this World Cup (12) but has failed to score with any of them.
19 de noviembre 2018
|McGuire signs four-year deal with Cowboys|
|Bears beat Vikings to extend NFC North lead|
|Peng overcomes Davis in Houston final|
|Kerr says this has been his toughest stretch as Warriors coach|
|LeBron scores 51 in Lakers´ win, Warriors fall to Spurs|
|Win more than Djokovic? Let´s chill out – Zverev|
|Steelers´ rally highlights wild day of close, last-minute finishes|
|Modric not worried about Ballon d´Or|
|Saints pull away for blowout victory over Eagles, extend winning streak to nine|
|Martinez laments loss of control by Belgium|
|Logano claims first NASCAR Cup championship|
|Luis Enrique delighted with attitude of Spain´s squad|
|Stevens tells Celtics to get ´tougher´|
|Griezmann: Being Messi´s lieutenant played a part in rejecting Barcelona|
|Curry proud of how Warriors handled Green-Durant incident|
|Courtois: Belgium thought Nations League job was done|
18 de noviembre 2018
|Howell ends 11-year title drought to deny record-breaking Rodgers|
|Robben dismisses Bayern title talk|
|Huge blow for Redskins as QB Smith breaks tibia and fibula|
|Switzerland 5 Belgium 2: Seferovic treble crowns incredible comeback|
|Titans DC Pees taken to hospital during Colts game|
|Spain 1 Bosnia-Herzegovina 0: Debutant Mendez spares Morata´s blushes|
|Peterson goes sixth on rushing touchdowns list|
|Titans QB Mariota suffers elbow injury|
|Djokovic hails much-improved Zverev|
|Arnautovic refuses to discuss West Ham future after Austria win|
|Redskins QB Smith carted off after gruesome ankle injury|
|Jaguars shut down Jalen Ramsey trade rumours|
|Classy Zverev revels in victory, hails defeated Djokovic|
|Forget the Nations League was ever invented, jokes Northern Ireland boss O´Neill|
|Magnificent Zverev claims ATP Finals title|
|Mahrez double fires Algeria to 2019 AFCON|
|Mbappe hoping for French winner of Ballon d´Or|
|Northern Ireland 1 Austria 2: Last-gasp winner denies hosts maiden Nations League point|
|Teenager admits assaulting Wales great Thomas|
|Browns deny Condoleezza Rice is candidate for head coaching job|
|Koeman: Netherlands not favourites for Germany clash|
|Dalic ´not sad´ but blames fatigue for Croatia relegation|
|Proud Southgate hails England hero Kane as world´s best goalscorer|
|Last-gasp Exeter penalty try shatters Bristol|
|Mbappe dismisses talk of Cavani-Neymar rift|
|Keita will do ´great things´ for Liverpool – Mane|
|Mourinho needs time to fix Manchester United - Veron|
|Southgate sees progress as England reward loyal support|
|Miller hungry to ´knock out a Brit´ after Dinu demolition|
|Yasir, Hasan put Pakistan in control with five-wicket hauls|
|England´s resilience delights Kane as Three Lions secure Nations League Finals spot|
|Kane proves Nations League importance to England in Wembley decider|
|Muller, Hummels still important for Germany, says Low|
|Tevez in line for start in Copa Libertadores final second leg|
|England 2 Croatia 1: Kane able to secure Nations League Finals spot|
|It doesn´t sound real - Molinari stunned by 2018 exploits|
|Wales legend Thomas victim of alleged homophobic attack|
|Marquez crashes again as Dovizioso wins rain-interrupted Valencia GP|
|Warriors owner denies taking sides following Green-Durant spat|
|Alisson can become a global great, says Dida|
|The Sunday Seven - 7 Key Opta facts for NFL Week 11|
|Teen driver ´fine´ after sustaining spinal fracture in F3 crash|
|Willett wins first title since Masters triumph, Molinari tops Race to Dubai standings|
|Southgate overcomes ´stigma´ of being sacked to thrive with England|
|Anthony to Lakers ´not a question for myself´, says LeBron James|
|Warriors´ Stephen Curry staying ´cautious´ with injury recovery|
|Gunter hopes Bale can help family jet in to witness Wales record|
|Root pleased to practice what he preached|
|Tianjin Quanjian threaten action after Modeste returns to Cologne|
|I had to stop Kemba getting 70! – Jimmy Butler reflects on dramatic game-winner|
|Molinari wins Race to Dubai|
|Rooney: Some ex-players can´t come to terms with England doing well|
|In a spin: England´s win against Sri Lanka sets new record|
|Ogier wins sixth straight WRC title|