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Messi leads rout of Croatia as Argentina reach World Cup final

Joe Prince-Wright and Andy Edwards predict Croatia's plan for Lionel Messi, how Argentina will hope to stifle Luka Modric and more in their semifinal showdown.

Argentina beat Croatia 3-0 to reach the World Cup final as Lionel Messi worked his magic to move one win away from winning the trophy he covets most.

The world (aside from one of France or Morocco) wants Messi to win this World Cup.


Messi scored the opener from the penalty spot, then Julian Alvarez scored a superb second and Messi then mesmerized us all to set up Alvarez to seal his double and Argentina’s spot in the final.

Croatia actually had the better chances before Argentina took the lead in the first half and the South American champs never looked back as they have now reached two of the last three World Cup finals.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

They will play either France or Morocco in the final on Sunday, while Croatia will play the loser of the other semifinal in the third-place game on Saturday.

Messi and Alvarez the perfect double act

Messi glides between the lines and Alvarez stretches them. Together, they are a deadly duo and they ripped Croatia apart. Argentina had the perfect game plan as they sat back, soaked up pressure and then when the won it back in midfield with a secondary press (led by the excellent Enzo Fernandez, Leandro Paredes and Alexis Mac Allister) they played direct in devastating fashion. Messi is Messi but for so long he hasn’t really had another player up top who can take the pressure off him and provide space for him to be at his best. He now has that in Alvarez as his pace and relentless pressing opens up so many opportunities for Messi. The balance of this Argentine side is spot on and they can cause a shaky France defense so many problems, if it is Les Bleus they face in the final. Whoever they face, it seems pretty impossible to stop Messi and Alvarez in this kind of form.

Stars of the show

Lionel Messi: Who else!? Had magic whenever Argentina needed it and he is feeling it. The best World Cup of his esteemed career. So far.

Julian Alvarez: Scored two goals and won the penalty kick. His pace in-behind gave Croatia so many problems. Works so well alongside Messi.

Luka Modric: What more can he do? The little genius was so silky on the ball, as always, and helped Croatia control the game until the opening goal. The veteran may not play at another World Cup but he delivered another superb display, and so did Mateo Kovacic who will now try his best to take over from Modric.

Argentina vs Croatia

How to watch Argentina vs Croatia live! Score, updates, stream link, videos

Kick off: 2pm ET - Tuesday, December 13Stadium: Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail TV channels en Español: TelemundoStreaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)

Amazing scenes at the final whistle as Messi and his teammates dance on the pitch together and celebrate with their fans as they bounce up and down.

GOALLL! After some pressure from Croatia, Argentina have looked dangerous on the break. Now they are 3-0 up. Messi wriggles past Gvardiol and sets up Alvarez to finish. Goat doing goat things.

SAVEEEE! What a stop from Livakovic as he pushes Mac Allister’s header onto the far post.

GOALLL! Julian Alvarez with a superb run and he bundles his way through and scores. 2-0.

GOALLL! After a slow start, Argentina lead. Alvarez taken out by Livakovic and Lionel Messi steps up and slams home the spot kick. 1-0 to Argentina.

Key storylines, players to watch closely

Obviously everyone will be watching Lionel Messi closely as his ridiculous assist against the Netherlands showcased his otherworldly talents. Others have been standing tall for Argentina too, especially Enzo Fernandez, Rodrigo de Paul and Alexis Mac Allister in midfield. At the back the likes of Lisandro Martinez, Cristian Romero and Nicolas Otamendi have had strong tournaments, while Marcos Acuna and Gonzalo Montiel will miss this game through suspension.

Croatia have the talented, and experienced, trio of Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic holding down midfield, while youngster Josko Gvardiol has been sensational at center back and so has Borna Sosa at left back. The star in their penalty kick wins against Japan and Brazil has been goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic and Croatia will need more heroics from him if they’re going to upset Argentina.

Argentina quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 3
World Cup titles: 2 (1978, 1986)
World Cup appearances: 17
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (2nd place)
Coach: Lionel Scaloni
Key players: Lionel Messi, Angel de Maria, Lautaro Martinez
At 2022 World Cup - Beat Netherlands 4-3 on penalty kicks in quarterfinals after 2-2 draw

Croatia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 12
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
Best-ever World Cup finish - Runners up in 2018
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Zlatko Dalic
Key players: Luka Modric, Andrej Kramaric, Mateo Kovacic
At 2022 World Cup - Beat Brazil 4-2 on penalty kicks in quarterfinals after 1-1 draw

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