Argentina crush Croatia, Messi’s dream continues to final
LUSAIL, Qatar — The most clinical of smash-and-grabs kept Lionel Messi on track for his date with fate and broke Croatian hearts as Argentina reached the World Cup final on Sunday with a 3-0 victory at the Lusail stadium.
Either France or Morocco will face Argentina who were fired up and orchestrated by a majestic Messi on Tuesday. Considered by many to be the best in the world, Messi now has a chance to put defeat in the 2014 World Cup final behind him and fill the only void in his CV.
“Throughout the World Cup, what we have been through has been incredible. We are going to play the final, that’s what we wanted,” said Messi, voted best player in the world seven times.
“I don’t know if it’s my best World Cup, I’ve been enjoying it for a long time. This team is crazy. We’re going to play one more final, we’re going to enjoy it all.
Croatia played their part, but in this case it was the smallest of cameos.
Their big day was, it seems, against Brazil in the quarter-finals where they held off the pre-tournament favorites and slipped away on penalties.
The same game plan they used to confuse the Brazilians never worked against Argentina. Croatia’s tightly controlled possession game was a little looser, a little more erratic on Tuesday night.
Tired legs will.
So, despite their greater possession and early dominance, Croatia lost 2-0 at halftime thanks to two classic punches from their South American opponents.
The intricate play and tight triangles Croatia were attempting only had to falter in the tiniest degree, and when they did, Argentina were ready to pounce.
It was a cruel irony that, after watching the stronger team for the better part of half an hour, it was Croatia’s inspirational playmaker Luka Modric who lost possession and let in Argentina.
Julian Alvarez was sent clean at the end of a road one pass. Ears back, he sprinted towards goal – almost as fast as spider-cam flickering along a wire following its course from the stadium roof – and chipped Dominik Livakovic, before being flattened by the keeper beginning.
It looked like Livakovic couldn’t have done much to avoid hitting the striker, but referee Daniele Orsato pointed straight to the point, booked Livakovic and Mateo Kovacic for complaining before Messi headed off. towards the penalty spot.
Seconds later, the net swelled and a crowded stadium in Lusail vibrated with deafening roars as the Argentine players harassed their captain.
Another record snatching, the goal made Messi Argentina’s top scorer in Messi’s World Cup with 11, eclipsing Gabriel Batistuta’s 10.
Already shaken, the worst was yet to come for Croatia five minutes later when, after a similar pattern of losing possession, Alvarez broke free again. Two attempted tackles only saw the ball bounce off Alvarez and he went on, before pushing the ball past Livakovic to double Argentina’s lead.
Argentina looked quicker and hungrier and added to their lead after another 70th-minute breakaway, this time by Messi.
He made his career down the right and twisted defender Josko Gvardiol left and right before stopping and sending the ball back from the line to Alvarez who calmly tucked in from close range for a third to signal euphoria in the blue and white end of the field. , euphoria that continued until the full-time whistle and beyond.
“We knew Croatia would have the ball but we had the strength to get the ball back. They weren’t well in possession,” Messi said.
“We are not lost on the pitch, we know what to do at every moment of the match. That’s why we weren’t desperate in this game where we had to run from side to side.
“We went through difficult situations, some very good ones. Today we are experiencing something spectacular.
“I enjoy it with all these people and with all the Argentines who are in our country. I imagine that must be crazy.
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