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Argentina Reach their 6th World Cup Final after Beating Croatia

Julian Alvarez with Lionel Messi

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Argentina defeated Croatia 3-0 on Wednesday at the Lusail Stadium in the first semifinal of the FIFA World Cup 2022 thanks to two goals from Julian Alvarez and one from Lionel Messi (IST).

With this victory, the Lionel Messi-led team has advanced directly to the tournament’s final game, where they will play either France or Morocco. Croatia, led by Luka Modric, is out after the defeat. They will now play the winner of the second semi-final in the third-place play-off.

On Sunday, Argentina will compete in their sixth World Cup championship match. Due to two goals from Julian Alvarez and a penalty kick from Lionel Messi, the two-time winners defeated Croatia 3-0 on Tuesday.

Julian Alvarez

With his goal from a 34th-minute penalty kick, Messi surpassed Pelé as the all-time best scorer for Argentina at the World Cups with 11 goals.

It wasn’t until the 25th minute that the game showed signs of life, with Enzo Fernandez hitting a low pot attempt from outside the area, but Croatia keeper Dominik Livakovic did well to jump across and keep it out.

It was a tight game until Fernandez lofted a pass over the top, which Alvarez latched onto, pushing the ball past the advancing Livakovic, who collided with the striker, and Italian referee Daniele Orsato signaled to the spot.

Although Argentina appeared to be far more threatening with the ball than Croatia, and it held the majority of possession in Lusail. 

Argentina, following Germany (8), Brazil (7), and Italy, is just the fourth side in World Cup history to make six finals (6). The victors from 1978 and 1986 lost their most recent two World Cup finals, in 1990 and 2014.

Messi, 35, who lost to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final, is keen to cap his incredible career by winning his first World Cup and giving Argentina a third trophy to add to those won in 1978 and 1986.

Also, after putting his team on the board with a superbly executed first-half penalty, he sealed the victory by beautifully creating the third goal.

Croatia, runner-up in Russia four years ago in 2018, paid the price for some very bad defending as they exited the competition in the last four for the second time after losing to France in their inaugural tournament in 1998.

Scoring record

The Argentine’s brilliantly placed shot went high into the net to give his team the lead in the 34th minute, despite Livakovic’s accurate prediction that Messi would move to his left. With his fifth goal of the competition, Messi is now tied for the lead with Kylian Mbappe of France in scoring. 

Five minutes later, Argentina extended their advantage when Alvarez scooped up the ball within his own half and started a lengthy dribble goalward following a break from a corner.

Alvarez overcame feeble challenges from Josip Juranovic and Borna Sosa as the Croatian defense retreated, slipped the ball past Livakovic, and enraged the boisterous Argentine audience. Then, Alexis Mac Allister came dangerously near with an angled header from a corner, forcing Livakovic to make a fantastic save to prevent a third.

Lionel Messi vs Croatia

Before the interval, Croatia’s only attempt at retaliation was a low cross-shot by Juranovic, to which Emiliano Martinez responded skillfully. In response, Zlatko Dalic of Croatia made two substitutions: Nikola Vlasic and Mislav Orsic came on at halftime, while Bruno Petkovic was added five minutes later.

Although they were good plays, Argentina still appeared to be the more threatening team when Messi forced a save at the near post following a quick interchange with Fernandez.

However, Messi left his best for last, harassing 20-year-old defender Josko Gvardial down the right before leaving him behind and passing the ball back to Alvarez, who calmly buried the goal. While Argentina and Messi were clearly peaking just in time for the most important game of their lives, Croatia was already over.

Messi’s Records in FIFA World Cup 2022

As soon as the game began, Messi equaled Lothar Matthäus for the most appearances in a men’s World Cup career with 25; this was the first record of the evening. On Sunday, Messi will be the sole owner of that record, barring something genuinely unexpected.

With his opening goal from the penalty spot against Croatia, he surpassed Gabriel Batistuta of Argentina as the leading World Cup scorer with his 11th goal overall.

Messi also broke or tied five more records that evening, but that wasn’t all.

1. Oldest to score 5-plus goals in a World Cup

Lionel Messi is the oldest man to ever score 5 goals at a single World Cup. 

2. Tied record for most World Cup appearances

Lionel Messi equals the record for most appearances at the men’s World Cup with his 25th match. 

3. Most World Cup goals for Argentina player

Lionel Messi has now scored 11 goals at the World Cup, the most of any Argentina player in the competition’s historical record. 

4. Tied record for most combined goals and assists at World Cup

His most goals + assists at the World Cup since 1966.

5. Most assists in World Cup knockout round

Lionel Messi has become the first player to both score and assist in four separate World Cup matches (since the 1966 edition). It’s Magical.

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