Lionel Messi’s lifelong dream of leading Argentina to World Cup will remain alive until the last day of Qatar 2022, as the South American powerhouse outclassed a weary-looking Croatia in a 3-0 victory in Tuesday’s semifinal.
Argentina has made its eighth appearance in a World Cup semifinal (defeating the USA in 1930, Belgium in 1986, Italy in 1990, and the Netherlands in 2014). It has additionally made the final six times. The last time Argentina won the World Cup was in 1986.
According to CNN, Argentina and Croatia both played conservatively at the beginning of the game in an effort to avoid making a mistake. But after a half-hour, Argentina took charge and never looked back.
When Julián Álvarez and Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livaković faced off in the 32nd minute, Livaković knocked Álvarez down, earning a penalty kick. Then Lionel Messi, a star for Argentina, took the initiative and did what he seemingly usually does. He struck the ball high and to the right with calm and composure, giving his team a 1-0 lead.
Álvarez had not finished. He led a counterattack in the 39th minute and dribbled all the way from midfield, racing through three Croatian defenders before lofting the ball past Livakovi to put Argentina ahead 2-0 at the break.
In goal, Livaković excelled during the competition. However, a relentless Argentina onslaught and a few defensive mistakes by Croatia proved to be too much.
Against Croatia, Messi and Álvarez had one more brilliant moment as a team. Messi displayed incredible ball control in the 69th minute against Croatian goalkeeper Joko Gvardiol on the right side of the net. Then Messi connected with Álvarez, who scored to make it 3-0. Only two of Croatia’s twelve shots on goal were successful.
Only one of their previous 41 international games had Argentina lost, coming into this encounter (28 wins, 12 draws). Croatia, who finished second in the 2018 tournament, had only dropped one of their previous 12 World Cup games.
Messi moved slightly ahead of Kylian Mbappé of France (five goals and two assists) for the lead in the Golden Boot competition with his fifth goal of the tournament (and third assist). In the championship game, Messi plans to smash another record. In terms of overall FIFA appearances, he now has 25 World Cup games under his belt and is tied with Lothar Matthäus.
On Sunday, Argentina will take on the winner of the semifinal match between France and Morocco on Wednesday. The World Cup competition for Croatia is still ongoing. It will compete against the loser of tomorrow’s semifinal in the third-place game on Saturday.
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