Argentina dominate Croatia to reach World Cup final as Lionel Messi’s last dance dream lives on


Lionel Messi’s dream of guiding Argentina to World Cup glory will live on until the final day of Qatar 2022, as The Albiceleste outclassed a tired Croatia in a 3-0 semi-final win on Tuesday.

Two first-half goals, the first from a Messi penalty and the second from a solo effort by Julian Alvarez, put Argentina in a dominant position in the interval, a position Croatia never had. seemed to recover.

Alvarez secured victory with Argentina’s third goal in the second half after a wonderful assist from Messi, giving the South American side and their 35-year-old captain a chance to banish the demons of the final defeat from 2014, as well as securing the country. first World Cup title since 1986.

Messi spent part of the game feeling his left hamstring, although you wouldn’t have guessed he was bothered by the way his labyrinthine, twisty run confused Joško Gvardiol, one of the best defenders in this game. tournament, to create Argentina’s third goal.

Messi’s near-superhuman powers are undoubtedly waning as he plays in the twilight of his career, but the little magician still has the ability to deliver moments of genius when his country needs him most.

His goal against Mexico in the group stage, the assist against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals and his overall performance in Tuesday’s semi-final provided even more memorable moments for a nation of 45 million who consider him to be not far from being a deity.

It is estimated that up to 40,000 Argentinian fans have traveled to Qatar for this World Cup, according to the Argentinian Embassy in Qatar, and it looked like they were all inside the Lusail stadium on Tuesday night.

As the clock ticked down into injury time and victory was no doubt, the Argentine bench and coaching staff began to join in with the rhythmic chants and chants that were bellowed from the stands.

After the final whistle, the Argentina players stood in front of the huge wall of blue and white shirts and were adored by their adoring fans.

It’s almost impossible to believe this is the same side that lost 2-1 to Saudi Arabia just three weeks ago in their opening group stage game – such a tasteless and bereft performance of inspiration that she left some wondering if Argentina would even make it. out of the group.

Now, against France or Morocco, Messi will have one last chance to lift the trophy he most dreams of.

Along with Messi and Croatian Luka Modrić, the two captains led their country to losing the World Cup final and it would be the last chance for both to get their hands on football’s most coveted prize.

Neither team was among the tournament favorites ahead of Qatar 2022, but Croatia stunned the world four years ago when they reached the final and did so again in the previous round in Qatar, knocking out Brazil, pre-tournament favorite, on penalties in a show of courage. and determination.

Modrić, Croatia’s star player and a living legend in the small Balkan nation, is seasoned in the biggest games and, alongside Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic, has been arguably among Qatar’s finest midfielders.

Luka Modric was unable to guide Croatia to a second consecutive World Cup final.

Argentina, similarly, also improved as the tournament progressed – although they could hardly get any worse after that stunning loss to Saudi Arabia.

The squad, who now seem to believe the script is set for Messi’s last dance to end in glory on Sunday, are almost unrecognizable from whoever took to the pitch that day.

Although Croatia started the match slightly better of the two teams, these players had played as many minutes as possible so far in Qatar, prevailing against Japan and Brazil on penalties after two energy-consuming extra times.

Their tired legs seemed to show from the start of the Lusail stadium and even a mistake there could prove costly.

That turned out to be the case for Croatia as, surprisingly, Modrić of all people gave the ball to midfield and Gvardiol failed to follow Alvarez, leaving Dominik Livakovic – twice Croatia’s shootout in Qatar – one-on-one display against the Manchester City striker. .

Alvarez pushed the ball around Livakovic, whose outstretched leg knocked the striker down and Messi made no mistake converting the resulting penalty, smashing it high into the top corner.

It was Messi’s 11th World Cup goal, taking him past Gabriel Batistuta as Argentina’s all-time top scorer in the World Cup final.

The game quickly seemed to drift away from Croatia as Alvarez made it 2-0 five minutes later.

Argentinian players celebrate with their full-time fans.

Borna Sosa’s poor cross into the box sparked an Argentinian counterattack, with Alvarez going three-quarters the length of the pitch and, after two fortuitous ricochets in the box, burying the ball past Livakovic.

Only a superb reflex save from Livakovic kept the scoreline from getting worse for Croatia before half-time, but it would take something very special, even for a side used to performing footballing miracles, to come back from this one .

However, Croatia offered a narrow lead in the second half, a combination of tired attacking play and strong Argentine defence, and their reprieve lasted until the 70th minute.

Messi scooped the ball up deep and ran Gvardiol to shreds, before finding Alvarez inside the box to send the Argentina fans inside the Lusail stadium in delight.

Argentina, considered by many to be inferior to other World Cup contenders, weren’t supposed to qualify for the final game in Qatar, but a determined and determined Messi helped ensure that they did.


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