Defender Gabriel Mercado said Monday that Argentina was “aware of what’s at stake” following its 1-1 World Cup tie with Iceland and would perform well against Croatia.
“No one wants to qualify more than us and to put the country in a good position,” the 31-year-old Mercado said in a press conference at Argentina’s training centre in Bronnitsy, a city located about 60 kilometres (37 miles) from Moscow.
Mercado said coach Jorge Sampaoli’s squad “is convinced about what’s ahead,” referring to the match with Group D leader Croatia.
The Croatian team rolled to a 2-0 win over Nigeria and will try to stay on top of the group when it clashes with Argentina on Thursday.
“Croatia will try to take control, but we’ll also try to take control, play in their half of the field and not have to defend inside our area. I understand that it could happen at some point, because Croatia will try to use its tools to win the match, but if it’s about suffering, we’ll suffer together,” Mercado said.
Taking on a team that focuses on scoring, like Croatia, could be “positive” for Argentine forwards Leo Messi and Sergio Agüero, Mercado said, adding that the two should have more scoring opportunities than against Iceland, which employed “two lines of four.”
Argentina must “not look back,” Mercado, who plays for Spain’s Sevilla, said. “It can be fixed, but we can’t be dwelling on it. Look ahead, so we can try to win the next match with Croatia.”
Sampaoli, for his part, tried out a new three-man defensive alignment on Monday, using Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi and Nicolas Tagliafico.