Zlatko Dalic - FIFA 2018 - Croatia
roatia s head coach Zlatko Dalic reacts during a group D match between Croatia and Nigeria at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Kaliningrad, Russia, June 16, 2018. (Photo by Xinhua/Imago/Icon Sportswire)

The coach for the Croatian national team told his players to relax and take in everything that is the FIFA 2018 World Cup ahead of the Croatia-Argentina match Thursday.

“We have nothing to lose in that game,” Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said. “I’ll tell my players before the start of the game just to enjoy the spectacle.”

The reason? Croatia defeated Nigeria, 2-0, Saturday on an own goal in the 32nd minute and captain Luka Modric’s 71st-minute penalty kick. Argentina tied Iceland, 1-1, Saturday, with both goals coming in the first 23 minutes. That gives Croatia three points vs. Argentina’s one.

“The match against Argentina is the easiest game for us at the World Cup because we have three points and we play against big opponent,” Dalic said.

The game from Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, which was known as Gorky from 1932-90, is the second in the tournament for both teams.

Led by forward Lionel Messi, who has been selected as The Best FIFA Men’s Player a record-tying five times, Argentina is fifth in the rankings compiled by FIFA, soccer’s international governing body. Croatia is ranked 20th.

“For me, he is the best player in the world,” Dalic said. “There is no chance of keeping him quiet.”

Argentina, known as La Albiceleste, which translates to white and sky blue, was the 2014 World Cup runner-up and champion in 1978 and 1986.

Argentina is 4-2-1 since Oct. 10, including a 2-1-1 record in 2018. Its roster consists of five players who play for club teams in Italy, four each in Argentina and England, three in Spain, two each in France and Portugal and one each in China, Mexico and Netherlands.

Croatia has played in five of six World Cups since first becoming eligible for the 1998 tournament. Its best finish was in 1998 when it was third. It has not advanced past the group stage since then.

Croatia, known as Vatreni, meaning The Blazers, is 0-4 against South American teams in the World Cup.

Croatia is 5-2-1 since Oct. 9, 3-2 in 2018. Its roster consists of six players who play in Italy, four each in Germany and Spain, two in Croatia, and one each in Austria, Belgium, England, France, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.

Messi and Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic are teammates with FC Barcelona.

“We live in the time of YouTube and all other things. Everything is known about him,” Rakitic said. “It is difficult to give some secret about him to my coach. He is the best player in the world and it is almost impossible to block him.”

— City News Service