Croatia and Liverpool centre back Dejan Lovren is relishing the chance to play against one of ‘the biggest players in the world’ on Thursday, when Croatia are set to face Argentina at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Group D’s second round of games.
Croatia recorded a comfortable 2-0 win against Nigeria in Kaliningrad, while Argentina were only able to draw 1-1 against Iceland in their opening game.
A victory for the Blazers on Thursday should guarantee them a place in the knockout rounds, but Lovren knows it will be tough against an Argentinian side which boasts the talents of Lionel Messi.
“We know how to play against the big teams and we are not scared of them,” Lovren said ahead of Thursday’s clash, as quoted by the Echo.
“They have one of the best players in the world, maybe the best, in Messi, but when you saw their game against Iceland, they did a great job and showed how to defend against him. You can’t stop him with one player, you have to defend like a team. You saw that with Iceland.
“It’s an honour, of course, to play against the biggest players in the world. A few weeks ago, I played against Cristiano Ronaldo [in the Champions League final for Liverpool], two weeks ago it was Neymar [in a friendly at Anfield] and now it’s Messi. That’s something you want to do from childhood – to play against the biggest.”
Following their unconvincing draw to Iceland, all the pressure will be on Argentina and particularly Messi, who was far from his influential best against the debuting Vikings on Saturday, wasting the chance to put his side ahead when his spot-kick was easily saved by Hannes Halldorsson in the second half.