Glasgow Rangers defender Borna Barisic earned his first World Cup appearance during the narrow victory over Japan on Monday as 2018 finalists Croatia edged into the last eight following a penalty shootout triumph.
Despite the jubilation of that eventual result, it did not prove a particularly encouraging outing for the Ibrox machine, as the 30-year-old appeared something of a liability for his side down the left flank.
With usual starter Borna Sosa – who has been linked with the likes of Newcastle United and West Ham United in recent times – out with a virus, the 6 foot 1 brute was thrust into the action by manager Zlatko Dalic, although struggled to take that rare opportunity to impress.
The 29-cap full-back endured a difficult outing against the lively Junya Ito having struggled to deal with the rampant speed of his fleet-footed opponent, with BBC commentator Jermain Jenas notably stating that the Gers man had a “big problem” in trying to deal with the winger, having been unable to “get anywhere near him”.
The Independent’s Alex Pattle also noted in his post-match player ratings piece that Barisic had ‘really struggled‘ to deal with the aforementioned Ito, while 90min’s Michael Graham was even more cutting with his assessment, suggesting that the Osijek-born ace was ‘nowhere near the level‘ of teammate, Sosa.
Journalist Josh Bunting was also critical of the one-time Dinamo Zagreb man’s role in Japan’s opener – courtesy of Celtic speedster Daizen Maeda – having seemingly not done enough to prevent the initial cross into the box:
“For that Japanese goal, Borna Barišić has to close down the cross, stands off and that allows the cross to come in. Has given him far too much time and space to get that ball in for Maeda to score. Close the space and press the ball.”
While the defender’s blushes were ultimately spared by Ivan Perisic’s second-half header – and a string of tame spot-kick attempts from the opposition – the statistics also make for grim reading for the left-back, having notably lost possession on 20 occasions in his 120-minute showing.
Although the £18k-per-week man did record a solid 7.0 match rating – as per Sofascore – and win six of his aerial duels, he proved largely ineffective in a defensive sense having also only won three of his eight ground duels and committed five fouls.
Equally, the imposing asset also offered little going the other way after completing only four of his 11 crosses, albeit while registering one key pass as a minor indication of his attacking quality.
After a season in which he has largely been a solid presence back at club level after recording six assists in all competitions for the Old Firm side – while also recording the second-highest average match rating among the Rangers squad in the league (7.43) – it will have come as a real disappointment for the player himself not to have shown his worth on the international stage.
Equally, new boss Michael Beale may also be concerned regarding that display from the experienced defender, with it yet to be seen if Barisic will be able to retain his place in the side as the tournament progresses.