Thanks to a great game by Lionel Messi, Argentina are heading to their sixth World Cup final appearance after beating Croatia at the Lusail Stadium.
Messi will now have one last chance to win the one piece of hardware he hasn’t been able to get in his long career. But Julian Alvarez, a 22-year-old striker for Manchester City, also did a great job helping Argentina make sure they’ll be back here on Sunday to play either France or Morocco.
Early on, it looked like Messi was having trouble with his hamstring. Still, Argentina’s little genius got back on his feet and scored from the penalty spot after 34 minutes, when Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic fouled Alvarez while he was running through the defense.
Five minutes later, Alvarez gave Argentina a two-goal lead when he took Messi’s header inside Croatian territory, ran around Josip Juranovic and Borna Sosa, and beat Livakovic.
Messi fooled Josko Gvardiol, one of Croatia’s best defenders, on the sideline before setting up Alvarez for the third goal, which was a brilliant move that didn’t depend on luck.
Messi will now have the chance to make up for how sad it was to lose to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final in Rio’s famous Maracana.
‘One last dance’
When Messi stretched and grabbed the top of his left hamstring 19 minutes into this World Cup semi-final, there was a fear that the dream for Argentina and their famous number 10 might turn into a nightmare.
Instead, Messi got better after strolling for a while and helped Argentina try to win the tournament for the third time after 1978 and 1986.
And it was a long way from the first game when Argentina lost 2-1 to Saudi Arabia despite Messi putting one of the tournament favorites in front. That is still the biggest surprise of this year’s World Cup in Qatar.
In 1990, Cameroon did the same thing to Argentina in their first game. Argentina reached the final, where they lost to West Germany 1-0.
As the World Cup closes, they can now do one better. In his last tournament, Messi can finally win the title.
Argentina played their best game of the World Cup against Croatia, the 2018 runners-up, who were tough, determined, and talented. This suggests that Lionel Scaloni’s team is peaking at the right time.
Messi was, of course, at the center of everything and was involved in every goal, but Alvarez proved in Qatar that, barring accidents, he has a great career ahead of him.
People have talked a lot about how much money Manchester City has spent over the years, but getting Alvarez from River Plate for only £14.1m was a great deal.
Croatia left with a proud attitude. After a confident and calm start to this World Cup semi-final, Croatia lost because Messi and his young partner Alvarez were so good. This has happened to a lot of teams in the past.
Their defense was exposed unusually for Argentina’s first two goals, and their best young defender, Gvardiol, couldn’t do much about Messi’s twisting run that led to Argentina’s third goal.
Croatia has once again had a great tournament. The country of only 4 million people, which made it to the final in Russia in 2018 and is now in the last four in Qatar, has done very well.
If Argentina had Messi, Croatia would have Luka Modric, a great football player. But, instead, when he was taken off with nine minutes left, cheers came from everywhere in Lusail Stadium.
He wanted to win the World Cup just like Messi did after losing in the final, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Even though Croatia lost by a lot, coach Zlatko Dalic and his players can be proud of what they did. With 20-year-old RB Leipzig defender Gvardiol, they have found one of the World Cup’s breakout stars who will be good for them for a long time and is already a serious target for Europe’s best clubs.
This is Lionel Messi’s last world cup
Lionel Messi thinks that Sunday’s final will be the last World Cup game he plays for Argentina.
The forward for Argentina scored his fifth goal of Qatar 2022 in Tuesday’s 3-0 semi-final win over Croatia. After the game, he said he doesn’t think he’ll be at a sixth World Cup in four years.
Messi, who is 35 years old, has won almost every award in the sport. He is the only player to have won the Ballon d’Or seven times, given to the best player in the world. He has also won the Fifa Best Men’s Player award once.
In addition, they have won the Champions League four times, the English Premier League eleven times, and the Copa America in 2021. However, the only thing that stands out is the World Cup, which they lost to Germany in the final in 2014.
Messi has one more chance to win the biggest trophy of all in Sunday’s final against either France or Morocco, which will be his record-setting 26th appearance in a men’s World Cup.
Along with Antonio Carbajal, Lothar Matthaus, Rafa Marquez, Andres Guardado, and Cristiano Ronaldo, the Paris St. Germain forward is one of only six men to have played in five World Cups.
Messi is tied with Kylian Mbappe for the most goals scored in Qatar. He also became the first player to score for Argentina in four different World Cups. With 11 goals, Messi is Argentina’s top scorer in World Cup history.
The forward for Paris St. Germain has scored three goals and set up three others so far in this tournament. He made his debut at age 18 in 2005 and has since made 172 appearances and scored 97 goals in 172 games.