NIZHNIY NOVGOROD, Russia – Angel Di Maria was left out as under-pressure Argentina made three changes to their starting line-up as they went in search of a much-needed win in their Group D game against Croatia on Thursday.
Coach Jorge Sampaoli drafted in Gabriel Mercado in defence to replace Marcos Rojo, and Enzo Perez and Marcos Acuna were chosen in midfield instead of Lucas Biglia and Paris Saint-Germain star Di Maria.
Surprisingly, Sampaoli left Cristian Pavon on the bench after the young Boca Juniors forward was widely predicted to play.
Up front are Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Maximiliano Meza.
23 – Ángel Di María has now created 23 goalscoring chances for Argentina over three different World Cup tournaments, but none of those have assisted a goal. Unfortunate. #ARGISL #ARG #WorldCup pic.twitter.com/0sWClJu3gA
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 16, 2018
Argentina need a victory in Nizhny Novgorod after surprisingly drawing their first game 1-1 against Iceland.
Croatia, who beat Nigeria 2-0 to top the early group standings, made just one change, bringing in Inter Milan midfielder Marcelo Brozovic for striker Andrej Kramaric.
Willy Caballero; Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi, Nicolas Tagliafico; Enzo Perez, Javier Macherano, Eduardo Salvio, Marcos Acuna; Maximiliano Meza, Sergio Aguero, Lionel Messi (capt)
Coach: Jorge Sampaoli (ARG)
Danijel Subasic; Sime Vrsaljko, Ivan Strinic, Domagoj Vida, Dejan Lovren; Ivan Rakitic, Marcelo Brozovic, Ante Rebic, Luka Modric (capt), Ivan Perisic; Mario Mandzukic
Coach: Zlatko Dalic (CRO)
Referee: Ravsham Irmatov (UZB)