Argentina and Croatia are ready to battle it out in their Group D encounter as we look at three players from this game who could shine and make a mark.

Argentina will be looking to bounce back from their disappointing draw with Iceland a few days back, as Lionel Messi cut a sorry figure, missing a second-half penalty that could have perhaps won the game for the South Americans. Against Croatia, they have an excellent occasion to get back in control of their group.

Croatia, on the other hand, started their World Cup campaign with a resounding win over a loose Nigerian side and instantly going on top of Group D. With a win over Argentina they could take a giant step forward towards locking their place into the next round of the World Cup and resoundingly top their group.

Both teams have the quality of players to make a difference and prove a point for their sides. Despite Argentina’s slow start and Croatia’s win in the first game, all four teams are very much in the mix to qualify for the next round. We look at three players who could make a difference on the pitch for either teams and shine.

Lionel Messi – Argentina

Will Lionel Messi give a performance that will open the doors for Argentina to move into the knock out stages? (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Will Lionel Messi give a performance that will open the doors for Argentina to move into the knock out stages? (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

The penalty miss against Iceland in the first game proved to be a costly one for Argentina, making them lose two points in the process. When players miss penalties like these, it often affects their morale and confidence in the games to follow, but Messi is a different breed of player, despite having missed some spot-kicks for his national team in recent time.

He is the kind of player who has the mentality to leave behind the disappointment of any magnitude and get on with the task at hand. Against Croatia, he will be looking to lead his side back in contention for the knockout stages. In his career, he has had few blips but has always got back on top within no time at all.

Messi is the undisputed leader of this Argentina side and knows the consequences a dip in form could bring for his nation. Even in the previous World Cup, he took his time to come into shape, but he eventually did, and there are chances he could turn around his fortunes with a resounding performance against Croatia.

Luka Modric – Croatia

Luka Modric will have to put in a performance worthy of his class and take Croatia into the next round of the World Cup. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Luka Modric will have to put in a performance worthy of his class and take Croatia into the next round of the World Cup. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Unlike Messi, the Croatian captain held his nerves to coolly slot home the penalty awarded against Nigeria. That penalty doubled his side’s lead over the Africans and in the end resulted in securing all three points for Croatia and taking control of Group D.

Modric plays in a number 10 role for his country as opposed to a forward-thinking central midfielder role he has at Real Madrid. With his range of passing, he is often able to find an advancing player to start attacks as well as pose as a lethal supplier for Mario Mandzukic and other forward players.

Against Argentina he will be a crucial cog in the Croatian attack as the team will be looking to kill off the South Americans right from the start. If Croatia are to win this encounter or even get any sort of result against Argentina, Modric will be pivotal to their chances right from the start.

Nicolas Otamendi – Argentina

Nicolas Otamendi has a huge task on his shoulders to keep Croatia's attackers at bay when Argentina meet the Europeans. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Nicolas Otamendi has a huge task on his shoulders to keep Croatia’s attackers at bay when Argentina meet the Europeans. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Argentina resembles a side that is unusually heavy on the attacking side, and there is a common perception for some time now that the defence is their weakness. Sure in some of the games in the qualifiers as well as the friendlies this aspect was exposed, but the Albicelestes do have some strong names at the back to control games.

With many former, experienced stars now either out of favour or retired, a lot of the defensive burden has fallen on the shoulders of Nicolas Otamendi, and he is the perceived leader at the back for Argentina. With a not-so-impressive start to his World Cup campaign, Otamendi will be looking to make amends with a good performance against Croatia.

He will likely be kept on his toes by the likes of Mandzukic, Modric and other Croatian attackers, whose sole purpose would take control of the match right from the start. Otamendi needs to showcase a different side of him and be able to offer complete support from the back to their prodigious attackers up front.

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