Messi leads Croatia defeat as Argentina reach World Cup finals

Argentina defeated Croatia 3-0 to reach the World Cup final while Lionel Messi used his magic to be one win away from lifting the trophy he covets most.

The world (except France or Morocco) wants Messi to win this World Cup.

FULL GAME REPEAT

Messi scored the first set from the penalty spot, then Julian Alvarez scored an excellent second and Messi mesmerized us all by setting up Alvarez to secure his double and Argentina’s place in the final.

Croatia actually had the better chances before Argentina took the lead in the first half and the South American champions never looked back as they have now reached two of their last three World Cup finals.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

They face either France or Morocco in Sunday’s final, while Croatia take on the losers of the other semi-final in the third-place play-off on Saturday.


Messi and Alvarez the perfect brace

Messi slides between the lines and Alvarez stretches them. Together they are a deadly duo and have torn Croatia apart. Argentina had the perfect game plan as they sat back, took the pressure and then played devastatingly direct as they recaptured it in midfield with a secondary pressing (led by the superb Enzo Fernandez, Leandro Paredes and Alexis Mac Allister). Messi is Messi, but for so long he hasn’t really had another player at the top who can relieve him and give him space to do his best. He has that now at Alvarez as his pace and relentless pressing open up so many opportunities for Messi. This Argentinian side’s balance is spot on and they can cause so many problems for a shaky French defense when it’s Les Bleus they face in the final. Whoever they’re up against, it seems pretty much impossible to stop Messi and Alvarez in this form.


stars of the show

Lionel Messi: Who else!? Had magic whenever Argentina needed it and he can feel it. The best World Cup of his esteemed career. Until now.

Julian Alvarez: Scored two goals and won the penalty. His pace behind caused Croatia so many problems. Works so well alongside Messi.

Luke Modric: What else can he do? The little genius was as lithe on the ball as ever and helped the Croatians control the game until they opened the scoring. The veteran might not play in a World Cup anymore, but he put in another superb performance, as did Mateo Kovacic, who will now do his best to take over from Modric.

Argentina vs Croatia
Graphic via FotMob.com

How to watch Argentina vs Croatia live! Score, updates, stream link, videos

kicking off: 2 p.m. ET – Tuesday, December 13
Stadion: Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
TV channels in EspaΓ±ol: Telemundo
Streaming in Spanish: peacock (all 64 games)

Amazing scenes after the final whistle as Messi and his teammates dance together on the pitch and celebrate with their fans while jumping up and down.

TORL! After some pressure from Croatia, Argentina looked dangerous at the break. Now they lead 3-0. Messi weaves past Gvardiol and sets Alvarez up for a finish. Goat doing goat things.

TO SAVE! What a stop from Livakovic as he puts Mac Allister’s header to the far post.

TORL! Julian Alvarez with a great run and he bundles through and scores. 2-0

TORL! Argentina led after a slow start. Eliminated by Livakovic and Lionel Messi, Alvarez steps forward and slams the penalty home. 1-0 to Argentina.


Major storylines, players to watch closely

Obviously everyone will be watching Lionel Messi closely as his ridiculous assist against the Netherlands showcased his otherworldly talents. Others have also rallied for Argentina, notably Enzo Fernandez, Rodrigo de Paul and Alexis Mac Allister in midfield. In defence, the likes of Lisandro Martinez, Cristian Romero and Nicolas Otamendi have had strong tournaments, while Marcos Acuna and Gonzalo Montiel will miss this game through suspension.

Croatia have the talented and experienced trio of Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic in midfield, while youngster Josko Gvardiol has been sensational at centre-back, as has Borna Sosa at left-back. The star of the penalty shootout victories over Japan and Brazil was goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic and Croatia will need more heroics from him if they want to upset Argentina.


Argentina quick facts

Current FIFA World Ranking: 3
World titles: 2 (1978, 1986)
World Cup participations: 17
How they qualified: Automatically qualified by CONMEBOL (2nd place)
Trainer: Lionel Scaloni
Key players: Lionel Messi, Angel de Maria, Lautaro Martinez
At the 2022 World Cup – Beat the Netherlands 4-3 on penalties in the Quarterfinals after a 2-2 draw

Croatia quick facts

Current FIFA World Ranking: 12
World title: 0
World Cup participations: 6
Best World Cup result ever – Vice Champion 2018
How they qualified: Automatically qualified by UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Zlatko Dalic
Key players: Luka Modric, Andrej Kramaric, Mateo Kovacic
At the 2022 World Cup – Beat Brazil 4-2 on penalties in the Quarterfinals after a 1-1 draw


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