June 17, 2018 / 5:37 PM / 3 months ago

Croatia turn to Barca's Rakitic for ideas to stop Messi

ROSHCHINO, Russia (Reuters) - Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic says he will turn to his Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic for ideas on how to stop Argentina’s Lionel Messi in Thursday’s Group D match between the two teams.

Soccer Football - World Cup - Group D - Croatia vs Nigeria - Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad, Russia - June 16, 2018 Croatia's Ivan Rakitic in action with Nigeria's Odion Ighalo REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Croatia beat Nigeria 2-0 in their opening game on Saturday while Argentina were held to a 1-1 draw by Iceland in what is one of the toughest groups in the tournament.

Messi missed a penalty in that draw and Dalic wants suggestions from Rakitic on how best to frustrate his Barcelona team mate.

“Of course, Rakitic will be my assistant for the next three days, and we will certainly look for some advice on how to stop Messi,” he told a news conference.

“I always ask my players about such things and about many other things, I love communicating and I am happy to accept every tip.

“Ivan likes it too and he will tell me, I will use all the information I can,” he said.

Dalic said he would also sit down with Real Madrid pair Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic to get their input on approaches for dealing with the five-times World Player of the Year.

“Luka and Kovacic will also help. “They played against him and (their former Real Madrid coach Zinedine) Zidane was prepared for such things,” Dalic said.

But the Croatia boss said it was also important not to lose focus on the overall team strategy.

“There is no perfect way to stop Lionel Messi. He shot 10 times last night, but we must stop his attacks by compactness.

“I think he is the greatest player in the world - but while one excellent player can make a great result, a great team does the job much better,” he said.

The draw leaves Argentina with little room for error in their final two games but while Dalic believes they will feel the pressure, he does not expect them to crack.

“Of course they were probably not expecting to draw against Iceland and they will come into the game against us knowing they need three points,” he said.

“That puts more pressure on them than us but as with all big teams, I am sure they will not cave because they are very used to pressure and every game is a big game for them.

“But for sure we will go into the game a little bit more relaxed than they are.”

Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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