Argentina advanced to the 2022 World Cup final in impressive fashion with a 3-0 victory over an unconvincing Croatia team on Tuesday at the Lusail stadium thanks in large part to Lionel Messi and Julian Alvarez as they combined for all three goals.
Messi shot into the top corner from the penalty spot – becoming Argentina’s top scorer at the World Cup finals with 11 goals – in the 34th minute after Man City forward Alvarez controversially got a penalty following a collision with Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.
Five minutes later, Argentina doubled their lead when Alvarez picked up the ball within his own half and started a lengthy dribble toward goal maneuvering past the Croatian defense and was helped even more following a slip-up by Borna Sosa, as he made it 2-0.
Then, Alexis Mac Allister came dangerously close with a perfectly timed header from a corner, forcing Livakovic to make a fantastic save to prevent a third.
Messi once more displayed genius in the 69th minute after toying and driving past Croatian defender Josko Gvardiol and then finding Alvarez, who tucked in for his second goal of the game and effectively sealed the victory for Argentina.
Croatia managed to register just two shots on target despite having more of the ball possession. The 2018 runners-up paid the price for some abnormally bad defending by failing to proceed to the final for the second time in their history after losing to France in 1998.
It was a letdown for the team’s diverse group of seasoned veterans, especially captain and crucial midfielder Luka Modric, who at 37 is unlikely to play in another World Cup.
‘I feel very happy in this World Cup’
Speaking after the match, Messi said: “I am enjoying this a lot. I am feeling really good, I feel strong enough to face every match. The previous match was a big sacrifice.
“Today we were tired, but we pulled out strength to earn the victory. We played very well, we preferred to play this way because we knew they would not have the ball. We knew we would have to run. We prepared in a very good way.
“I feel very happy in this World Cup. I am able to help the squad.”
He added: “I would say the first match [the defeat against Saudi Arabia] was a hard blow because we had been unbeaten in six matches. To start in such a way in a World Cup, we did not think we would lose to Saudi Arabia.
“It was an acid test of the whole squad but we proved how strong we are. We won the other matches and it was very difficult what we did. Every match was a final and we were aware if we did not win things would be complicated for us.
“We have won five finals and I hope this is the case for the final on Sunday. We lost in the first match due to fine details but it helped us to be stronger.”
On Sunday, Argentina will either take on defending champions France, or Morocco, the first Arab and African nation to advance to the World Cup semifinals.
France and Morocco play each other on Wednesday at Al Bayt Stadium by 10pm (19:00GMT).