Argentina’s World Cup bid is hanging by a thread after they were crushed by the hand of Mod.
Jorge Sampaoli now faces a fight to keep his job after his star-studded side were torn apart by a Croatia performance to send shock waves reverberating round planet football.
Not even five-time Balon D’Or winner Lionel Messi could inspire them as Zlatko Dalic’s men sealed their passage to the next round. The Barcelona superstar did not manage a single attempt in goal until the 64th minute.
Instead, goals from Ante Rebic, Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric and Barcelona counterpart Ivan Rakitic mean the two-time winners and three-time finalists now need to beat Nigeria in their final game – and hope other results go their way – to have any chance of progressing.
On the evidence of this shambles, good luck with that. You’d be a brave man to back them in St Petersburg next Tuesday.
The long-term (or maybe even short-term) future of Sampaoli must also, surely, be in jeopardy.
This demolition was Argentina’s heaviest defeat in the group stages since they were smashed up 6-1 by Czechoslovakia in 1958.
The warning signs were there when they were slaughtered 6-1 by Spain in March.
Messi missed that match and Sampaoli had been accused in the build-up to the tournament of being too reliant on his star man. Of not doing enough to get the best out of the other, stellar talents in his team.
He denied the charges, insisting it would all come right here in Russia.
Instead he and his side – and his country – were humiliated in front of the world. Horribly exposed by a Croatia side organised from he start, efficient in possession and ruthless in front of goal.
They were everything that Sampaoli’s side were not. He looked clueless, pacing on the sidelines in his black T-shirt and jacket combo. Well aware that he is not getting anywhere near as much as he should out of his stellar squad.
At the final whistle he’d have been better off heading straight to the airport rather than to join the players in the dressing room. How can he possibly hope to inspire them or his country now?
The scoring should have started as early as the 32nd minute when Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic, totally unmarked, somehow contrived to send a free header wide.
Shortly after the break Rebic lost control when a sensational ball, bent around the Argentina defence, should have sent him clear on goal.
(Image: Getty Images)
Then the scoring started. Eight minutes after half-time, Chelsea keeper Willy Caballero slashed at a clearance to present it to Rebic.
The Eintracht Frankfurt winger’s finish was outstanding, volleying the ball over the hapless Blues reserve who clutched the sides of his head in frustration.
Desperate Sampaoli replaced Manchester City super-striker Sergio Aguero with Juventus marksman Gonzalo Higuain, no slouch himself to be fair.
But why not keep them both on with his side struggling to score goals and Messi being marked out of the game?
Ten minutes from time the writing was on the wall. Modric lashed in a sensational 25-yard strike with Cabellero at fault for allowing it to squeeze into the bottom corner.
By the time Rakitic walked the ball into the net in the 91st minute, Argentina had given up. It would be no surprise if Sampaoli were sacked by the time you’ve finished reading this.