Croatia a better team than Messi-dependent Argentina, says Kovacic

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Mateo Kovacic insists that, barring Lionel Messi, the Europeans are better than the South American side all over the pitch

Croatia midfielder Mateo Kovacic is confident his side will get the better of Argentina when they meet in the World Cup because they are "a better team" than the South Americans.

The two heavyweights of Group D meet on Thursday, with Argentina having drawn 1-1 with Iceland in their opener and Croatia beating Nigeria 2-0.

Neither game will be remembered as a classic encounter, but a win for Kovacic's side against Argentina could potentially see them through to the knockout stages as group winners.

That would be something of a shock given the pre-tournament billing given to Argentina, in particular Barcelona's talisman Lionel Messi.

Kovacic, though, insists that Messi is the only advantage the South Americans hold, believing that the rest of their team is better to a man.

"Argentina depends a lot on Messi, although they are a great team in other positions," he told reporters. "He has to take care of them most of the time. He is phenomenal, he can resolve the game at any time."

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He added: "We do not need to be too afraid of Argentina, we are singularly better than them, except Messi, and so we should behave, look at ourselves, not others."

Croatia boast the talents of Kovacic and his Real Madrid team-mate Luka Modric, along with Juventus forward Mario Mandzukic and Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic.

The winners of Group D will meet the runners-up of Group C, meaning a last-16 showdown looms with either France, Denmark, Australia or Peru.

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