Lionel Messi converted a penalty kick, and Julian Alvarez scored twice as Argentina reached their second World Cup final in eight years with a 3-0 victory over Croatia on Tuesday.
The two-time world champions played their best tournament game at the Lusail Stadium in front of their passionate, singing fans. It ensured they would play in the final on Sunday against the winner of Wednesday’s semi-final between holders France and Morocco.
Messi, who is 35 years old, lost the 2014 World Cup final to Germany. He wants to cap off his remarkable career by winning his first World Cup and Argentina’s third after 1978 and 1986.
And after putting his team on the right track to win with a well-taken penalty in the first half, he made sure of the win by setting up the third goal in a brilliant way.
Messi said, “It’s crazy we did it, and we’re going to play a final,” Argentina is in a World Cup final again!” as he celebrated in front of the many South American fans who had travelled to Qatar.
“Seeing all of these people, this family, during the World Cup has been an amazing thing for us to do. We are going to the final game, which was what we wanted,” he said.
Croatia was the runner-up in Russia four years ago. They lost in the final four for the second time after losing to France in 1998. This time, it was because of bad defense.
“We didn’t win the game. Regarding the boys, I have nothing negative to say. During the whole tournament, they did their best. It’s a defeat that was due, “said coach Zlatko Dalic.
In the 25th minute, Enzo Fernandez took a low shot from outside the box, but Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic did an excellent job of getting across and stopping it.
It was a close game until Fernandez sent a simple ball over the top that caught the Croatian defense off guard. Alvarez saw it and knocked the ball past Livakovic, who was coming toward the striker. Livakovic then collided with the striker, and Italian referee Daniele Orasto pointed to the spot.
Both the Croats on the field and the bench protested, which led to assistant coach Mario Mandzukic getting a red card.
Livakovic’s guess was correct, but his dive was for nothing because Messi’s well-struck shot went high into the goal in the 34th moment to give his group a 1-0 lead.
The tournament has seen five goals scored by Messi, the same number as Kylian Mbappe of France. With his 11th goal, he passed Gabriel Batistuta as Argentina’s all-time top scorer in the World Cup. He did this in his record-tying 25th World Cup game, which is also a record.
Five minutes later, Argentina made it 2-0 when, after getting a break from a corner, Messi’s first-time pass found Alvarez in his half, and Alvarez went on a long run toward the goal.
With the Croatian defense backing off, Alvarez dodged Borna Sosa, and Josip Juranovic made weak challenges. However, the ball got past Livakovic, sending the primarily Argentine crowd into a frenzy.
Alexis Mac Allister then almost scored with an angled header off a corner kick, but Livakovic made an incredible save to keep it from happening.
Before the half, the best Croatia could do was a low cross-shot from Juranovic that Martinez did an excellent job of stopping.
Messi tormented Josko Gvardial down the right side, twisting and turning to get around the 20-year-old defender and pass the ball to Alvarez, who quickly scored his fourth tournament goal.
Croatia’s dream was over, and their 37-year-old playmaker Luka Modric, who was a big reason they did so well in the last two tournaments, got a standing ovation when he was taken off with nine minutes left in what was likely his final game.
“We’re disappointed because we wanted to play in another final. It didn’t happen. All we can do is congratulate Argentina. “Modric questioned the decision to give the penalty, which changed how the game went.
All that’s left for Modric and Croatia is the match for third place, but Alvarez and Messi can still win the big prize with Argentina.
Now that they have two good offensive players and Messi is playing well, they are at their best right before the biggest game of their lives.