Messi, Alvarez crush Croatia, gives Argentina another chance to win World Cup


The two-time world champions, backed by their cheering, singing followers at Lusail Stadium, produced their best performance of the tournament to ensure they will meet the winners of Wednesday’s semi-final between holders France and Morocco in Sunday’s final. .

The 35-year-old Messi, who lost the 2014 final to Germany, is eager to crown his extraordinary career by winning his first World Cup and third for Argentina after victories in 1978 and 1986.

And after putting his side squarely on course to victory with a first-half penalty, he scored a brilliant third to seal the win.

“It’s crazy, we did it, we did it, we’re going to play another final, again Argentina in the World Cup final,” Messi said after celebrating in front of a crowd of South American supporters. Traveled to Qatar.

He said, “Seeing all these people, this family, what we’ve experienced throughout the World Cup is unbelievable. We’re going to have the last game we wanted.”

Runners-up in Russia four years ago, Croatia paid the price for some poor defending as they crashed out in the last four for the second time since losing to France in 1998.

Coach Zlatko Dalić said, “We lost the match. I have no complaints about the boys. They did their best during this whole tournament. It was a deserved loss.”

It wasn’t until the 25th minute when the game showed signs of life with a low pot shot from outside the box by Enzo Fernandez, but Croatia keeper Dominik Livkovic did well to cross and keep it out.

It was a tight affair, but then a simple lofted ball over the top from Fernández caught out the Croatian defence, Álvarez latched onto it, headed the ball past Livakovic, who had collided with the striker and Italian referee Daniele Orsato. Pointed to the spot.

The Croats protested, both the players on the field and the bench staff, resulting in assistant coach Mario Mandzukic being shown a red card.

– Scoring Record –

Livakovic got it right but his dive went in vain as Messi’s sweet move put his side ahead 1-0 in the 34th minute.

It was Messi’s fifth goal of the tournament, making him joint top scorer with France’s Kylian Mbappe. His 11th career goal – in a record-equalling 25th World Cup match – also saw him overtake Gabriel Batistuta as Argentina’s all-time World Cup top scorer.

Five minutes later, Argentina doubled their lead when, following a break from a corner, Messi’s first ball found Alvarez inside his own half, a long dribble set up towards goal.

With Croatian defense support, Álvarez fended off weak challenges from Josip Juranović and Borna Sosa and then slotted the ball past Livacović, sending the massive Argentina crowd into delirium.

Alexis McAllister then went close with an angled header from a corner, forcing a fine save from Livkovic to avoid the third.

Before the break, all Croatia could muster in response was a low Juranovic cross-shot which Emiliano Martinez responded well.

Messi saved his best for last, however, troubling Josco Guardial down the right, twisting and turning to outflank the 20-year-old defender and pull the ball back to a clinical Alvarez, who calmly netted his fourth goal of the tournament.

Croatia’s dream came to an end when their 37-year-old playmaker Luka Modric, key to their excellent record over the past two tournaments, was certainly applauded nine minutes from the end of their final campaign.

Modric, who questioned the awarding of the penalty, said: “We are sad, we were hoping to play another final. It didn’t happen. We have to congratulate Argentina and that’s it.”

Only the third-place match remains for Modric and Croatia, but the big prize is within reach for Argentina, Alvarez and Messi.

With the threat of a double strike now, confidence running through the squad and Messi in top form, they are on peak right in time for the biggest game of his life.

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