Lionel Messi Argentina
Lionel Messi looks on in disbelief after Croatia put Argentina to the swordElsa/Getty Images

It's the kind of performance that the over-the-top "Cristiano Ronaldo is the greatest and will always be" fans dream of – Argentina playing like a pub team and Lionel Messi looking like he has been possessed by someone who has just been thrown into international football from that pub team.

The thing, though, is that we have been here before with Argentina. While they might have forced their way to a few international finals, not once, since Messi became the main man in the team, have they looked convincing, easy on the eye, the kind of team that deserves to go all the way and lift the Jules Rimet Trophy or the Copa America title.

It's just been one train wreck after another for Argentina of late, and the signs were there considering just how much they struggled to even qualify for this Fifa World Cup 2018.

Yes, it was Messi, whose brilliance against Ecuador that booked their tickets to Russia, but it is that Messi-dependence that makes it so easy to play against Argentina. It is almost as if a forwardline that has the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, Paulo Dybala, Christian Pavon and more just does not know how to attack in an Argentina shirt, purely because Messi is there, and everything is better when it goes through him.

However, in this World Cup, though, Messi has struggled – for touches, to make an impact from deep, to find spaces where it matter, for everything.

Against Croatia, it was obvious Argentina needed a Plan B in attacking, but there was none, absolutely nothing.

You do wonder what it is that they do in training, if there is any sort of coherence, any planning, anything at all to deal with situations that may arise on the pitch. Maybe, all they do is have some "fun" in training, at least as far as the attack is concerned, because they know Messi is the way forward.

That is hard to understand, particularly with Jorge Sampaoli at the helm. This is the manager that made Chile into a team, an actual TEAM that is better than the sum of its parts; a team that actually works together, with every player knowing their role.

Even Chile had a superstar in Alexis Sanchez, but Sampaoli found a way for everyone to work together.

After taking over his native Argentina, however, that just hasn't been the case, and it is almost as if the "Messi will take care of everything" malaise has spread to the defence.

On Thursday, it was shambolic, and then some, and then some more, with a whole dose of "that cannot be even called defending."

Croatia knew Argentina were going to go with three at the back, so there would be a few passes sprayed between the defenders and the goalkeeper, and they decided to press high. And almost every time, Argentina looked nervous, with Willy Caballero fumbling, Nicolas Otamendi, who should be used to playing from the back, considering that is what his team Manchester City always do, looked lost, and the rest of the Argentina defence, and that terms is used extremely loosely here, was clueless, utterly clueless.

After a couple of close shaves, that high press eventually worked, when Caballero decided to gift Ante Rebic, who probably should have seen a red card in the first half for an awful challenge, a goal, but even after that opener, Argentina barely looked capable of scoring.

Again, there was no plan, no strategy, nothing. Just a lot of huffing and puffing, with Messi barely available even for that.

Croatia finished Argentina off with their two world-class midfielders – Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic – scoring late on, and with that you felt the Albiceleste's and Messi's dream of a World Cup title was over.

They will need a minor miracle now – score lots of goals against Nigeria and hope Iceland go missing in their final two group games. The latter might happen, but Argentina scoring goals, based on this evidence, looks highly unlikely.

Maybe it will be Messi's moment, maybe, but waiting on their great man to do it all is one of the main reasons they find themselves in this position in the first place.