On a night where they were inspired by their attacking icon, Argentina booked their spot in the final of this winter’s World Cup as they claimed a 3-0 romp against Croatia on Tuesday.
While the South American icons might have edged their way past Holland last weekend following a nervy penalty shootout, La Albiceleste laid down what was a real marker at the Lusail Stadium.
With the record-making Lionel Messi opening the scoring 16 minutes before the half-time break after powering home from 12 yards, Argentina didn’t look back as they breezed past a Croatia side who have only continued to gain a string of plaudits in Qatar.
Watching Manchester City’s Julian Alvarez bag a stellar World Cup brace on either side of the interval, Lionel Scaloni’s men are within touching distance of making real history in the Middle East.
With all eyes now falling on France’s showdown against Morocco on Wednesday night, we have taken a look at the main talking points as Argentina booked their sixth World Cup final ticket.
Messi magic leaves him 90 minutes from immortality
Opening their World Cup adventure on November 22nd with an infamous 2-1 loss at the hands of Saudi Arabia, Argentina were always calling on their attacking legend to spearhead a Middle Eastern comeback.
With many believing that this will be Messi’s final World Cup appearance, the PSG icon appears on a real one-man mission in Qatar after putting in another Man of the Match display on Tuesday night.
Continuing to drag the South American giants across the finish line and opening the scoring with a thunderous spot-kick late in the first-half, the ex-Barcelona king is now desperate to produce one more piece of magic and drag his country to a third world crown.
Bagging his 12th World Cup strike here and becoming Argentina’s all-time leading goalscorer on the world stage, Messi is now 90 minutes away from immortality and further cementing his place as the greatest player in history.
With no player at this year’s tournament producing more assists or creating more chances in Qatar, can the 35-year-old sign off his historic career with a maiden world crown on Sunday?
Julian Alvarez – The World Cup’s breakout star?
Although it might be a certain seven-time Ballon d’Or winner who will undoubtedly steal all of the headlines on Tuesday night, Alvarez deserves his spot in Argentinian folk law.
While some might have been surprised to see Manchester City’s starlet included in Scaloni’s squad this winter, the former River Plate prodigy once again demonstrated why he is key to Argentina’s plan in Qatar.
Forming what has been a stellar relationship with Messi and with his stock at a red-hot high, Alvarez made his own piece of history in Lusail after bagging a World Cup brace on either side of the half-time break.
Powering through Croatia’s defence to bag Argentina’s second of the night and then sweeping home from close range following Messi’s iconic assist, the 22-year-old has cemented his place as one of the World Cup’s breakout stars this winter.
Now recording four World Cup strikes in the Middle East – a tally that is only surpassed by Messi and France’s Kylian Mbappe – Alvarez has also sent a real statement to Pep Guardiola about what he can offer the Premier League giants on a regular basis.
Croatia have nothing but positives
Although Croatia might have failed to spring what would have been another major World Cup upset on Tuesday night, the Blazers must take a host of positives away from another iconic run in Qatar.
Stealing all of the headlines last week as they stunned a high-flying Brazil following a stunning penalties victory, the European outfit have once again gained a string of plaudits from across the globe.
While Zlatko Dalic’s men might have failed to lay any kind of blow on Argentina in what looks set to have been Luka Modric’s final World Cup appearance, Croatia have enjoyed another record-breaking run in the Middle East.
Shocking almost everyone as they reached the final out in Russia four years ago, Dalic’s side have consistently proven that they can mix it with world football’s biggest heavyweights.
Stil knowing that they can leave Qatar with a bronze medal finish to show for their history-making run, Croatia have now reached the final four in back-to-back tournaments.
With a population that is smaller than both New Zealand and El Salvador, the Blazers have cemented their place as one of this year’s most shocking stories.
Argentina: Martinez, Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Tagliafico, de Paul, Paredes, Fernandez, Mac Allister, Messi, Alvarez
Subs: Foyth, Palacios, Correa, Dybala, Martinez
Croatia: Livakovic, Juranovic, Lovern, Gvardiol, Sosa, Brozovic, Modric, Kovacic, Perisic, Kramaric, Pasalic
Subs: Orsic, Petkovic, Livaja, Vlasic, Majer
Goals: Messi (34′ pen), Alvarez (39′, 69′)
Yellow Cards: Argentina: Romero, Otamendi – Croatia: Kovacic, Livakovic
Red Cards: N/A
Referee: Daniele Orsato