With their 3-0 win against Croatia in Tuesday’s semi-final, Argentina secured their spot in the 2022 World Cup final.
The Lusail Stadium crowd was treated to a masterclass by Lionel Messi, who opened the scoring from the penalty spot halfway through the first half. Two goals from Julian Alvarez, one on each side of halftime, sealed the victory and sent La Albiceleste to their sixth World Cup final.
Argentina will play either France or Morocco in Sunday’s championship game, while 2018 runner-up Croatia is eliminated in the quarterfinals and must now focus on Saturday’s third-place playoff.
Croatia chose an identical lineup after their shootout victory against Brazil last Friday. At the same time, Lionel Scaloni made two changes to the side that defeated the Netherlands on penalties by inserting Leandro Paredes and Nicolas Tagliafico in place of Lisandro Martinez and the banned Marcos Acuna.
After a quiet first half at Lusail Stadium, things finally got going in the 32nd minute when Alvarez sprinted onto a brilliant route-one pass and sped past the Croatian defence, only to be brought down by goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic, leading to a penalty kick awarded by referee Daniele Orsato.
Messi’s Penalty Help Boosting Confidence Through the Penalty
Messi stepped up to take the penalty and calmly placed it into the top corner, giving Argentina the lead. With 11 goals, they became the country’s all-time leading scorer in World Cup history, surpassing Gabriel Batistuta.
Four minutes later, Alvarez scored an unbelievable goal by scooping up the ball inside his own half and dribbling right through the middle of the Croatian defence to put Argentina up 2-0. But with a huge slice of luck, the ball floated up perfectly for the 22-year-old to strike with the tip of his right foot past Livakovic from a tight angle.
In the 42nd minute, Argentina almost scored a third when Alexis Mac Allister’s head flicked on an inswinging corner at the near post. Still, Livakovic reacted wonderfully to tip the ball away for a corner.
Zlatko Dalic made three attacking substitutions in the first five minutes of the second half after Croatia finished the first half in second place. Nikola Vlasic, Mislav Orsic, and Bruno Petkovic entered the game to present Croatia with a greater threat in the final third.
When Argentina’s No. 10 Messi, a seven-time winner of the Ballon d’Or, set up Alvarez for Argentina’s third goal in the 69th minute, he effectively put the game out of Croatia’s reach.
Messi and Josko Gvardiol are arguably the world’s best forward and brightest defensive prospects. They were engaged in a fascinating one-on-one battle down Argentina’s right. Messi emerged victorious thanks to his strength and trickery in beating the 6-foot 3-inch defender and setting up Alvarez for an easy tap-in goal.
In the 75th minute, Paulo Dybala, making his first appearance in Qatar, replaced Alvarez, thereby ending Alvarez’s chances of scoring his fifth goal of the 2022 World Cup.
Luka Modric, captain of the Croatian national soccer team, had one final waltz with the Checkered Ones that was not meant to be. However, the 2018 Golden Ball winner is leaving the international scene as one of the all-time great midfielders. The two players that really stood out for Argentina were Messi and Alvarez.
With Argentina back in the World Cup final for the first time since 2014, Messi has one more shot to cap off an already remarkable career by winning a major title for the first time.