LIONEL MESSI’S World Cup dream is now hanging after Croatia beat Argentina 3-0 in Russia on Thursday.
Ante Rebic, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic all scored second-half goals to seal a deserved victory as Croatia powered into the last 16.
The Group D defeat means Argentina have just one point from two games, meaning they will probably have to beat Nigeria in their last game and hope other results go their way to avoid elimination.
The result left Argentinian fans in tears inside the Nizhny Novgorod stadium, while Diego Maradona watched from the stands in stunned disbelief.
The 30-year-old’s dream of winning the World Cup now look remote.
With all the pre-match attention on Messi it was his Real Madrid counterpart Luka Modric who provided the game’s true flashes of genius.
Croatia took the lead after a horrendous blunder by Argentine goalkeeper Willy Caballero in the 53rd minute, the stopper chipping a clearance straight to Rebic who lashed home a thunderous volley.
Real Madrid star Modric then produced an electrifying 80th-minute goal before Messi’s Barcelona team-mate Rakitic completed the scoring after Croatia sliced apart Argentina’s hapless defense in injury time.
The defeat leaves the Argentinians facing an ignominious repeat of their 2002 campaign when they also went out at the group stage after being tipped as possible World Cup winners.