Argentina vs Croatia 3-0: Messi and Alvarez March into the Final

Argentina made a statement along the path to the World Cup success as they dismantled Croatia 3-0 in the first Semi Final. Leo Messi and Julian Alvarez sent the Albiceleste through as La Pulce converted a spot kick and delivered a brilliant assist, while the Man City talent made it to the scoresheet twice.

Argentina won, and it was an unquestionable success. Zlatko Dalic’s Croatia were too inefficient upfront and theirs plan to keep the match tempo low foundered as soon the Argentine found the back of the net for the first time. 

They were hoping to reach the last act for the second World Cup edition in a row but the match against the South Americans became a swan’s song for the last representatives of a golden generation, including the 37-year-old Luka Modric, whose determination was commendable tonight despite the bitter loss.  

Kudos to Croatia for what they accomplished in the last two World Cups, but it will be Argentina to face the winner between France and Morocco in the final showdown on Sunday. 

A World Cup Semi Final is seldom a fun affair to watch in modern football and indeed the initial stages of the match did not look promising. Zlatko Dalic’s game plan seemed clear as Croatia kept the ball to themselves and made it circulate, keeping the match tempo low.

The first 30 minutes were a sleep-inducing affair, the only emotions being a shot from Enzo Fernandez from outside the box, which was saved by Dominik Livakovic, and an Ivan Perisic lob that sailed above the crossbar. 

But then the unexpected happened, with the so-far granitic Croatian defense conceding two goals in the space of five minutes.

Argentina’s first literally came out of nowhere as Julian Alvarez was picked on the counter with a fine lob pass. The two Croatian center backs appeared caught by surprise as the Manchester City starlet sneaked past them and Livakovic had no choice but body-check him, causing a penalty.

Leo Messi was stone cold and drew Argentina ahead with a perfect spot kick conversion, becoming the tournament top-scorer with five goals alongside Kylian Mbappé. 

On 39 minutes, Alvarez again took advantage of the Vatreni‘s defense confused state as he galloped across half of the pitch, won two one-on-one duels with a bit of luck, and slotted the ball home to make it 2-0. 

Argentina could have even added a third one before half time, but the Croatian shot-stopper came up with a miraculous save from Nicolas Tagliafico’s close range header from a corner kick. 

As things stood, few would hope that Croatia could put up a reaction in the second half. They would have needed somebody like Mario Mandzukic upfront, but the former Juventus and Milan striker, now an assistant to coach Dalic, was not even on the bench anymore as he was expelled by the referee during the first period. 

Messi seemed on fire and, on 57 minutes, Livakovic had to keep his cool to block a shot from La Pulce after a brilliant exchange with Fernandez.

The third goal was only delayed by a few minutes though, as Messi was absolutely touched by grace on 69 minutes as he dashed along the right flank, dribbled past poor Josko Gvardiol, and served Alvarez a ridiculously easy chance to tap the ball in to make it 3-0.  

With the match now done and dusted, the highlight in the last 20 minutes was Paulo Dybala finally walking the World Cup stage as coach Lionel Scaloni gave him some playing time. La Joya evidenced himself for a brilliant pass for Alexis Mac Allister, who shot sailed off target.  

Ivan Perisic’ unpretentious shot from afar was the image of Croatia’s powerlessness tonight, while Modric’s substitution on 80 minutes sounded like the final surrender. This was possibly his last game with the Vatreni and most likely his last World Cup appearance. We will miss him.  



December 13, 2022 – FIFA World Cup Semi Finals

SCORERS: 34′ Messi pen., 39′ J. Alvarez, 69′ J. Alvarez

ARGENTINA (4-4-2): E. Martinez; Molina (86′ Foyth), Romero, Otamendi, Tagliafico; Paredes (62′ Li. Martinez); De Paul (74′ Palacios), E. Fernandez, Mac Allister (86′ Correa); Messi, J. Alvarez (74′ Dybala) (Armani, Rulli, Pezzella, Di Maria, Almada, G. Rodriguez, Lautaro Martinez) Coach: Scaloni
CROATIA (3-4-3): Livakovic; Juranovic, Lovren, Gvardiol, Sosa (46′ Orsic); Modric (81′ Majer), Brozovic (50′ Petkovic), Kovacic; Pasalic (46′ Vlasic), Kramaric (72′ Livaja), Perisic (Grbic, Stanisic, Barisic, Erlic, Budimir, Vida, Ivusic, Sutalo, Sucic, Jakic) Coach: Dalic
REFEREE: Mr. Orsato (Italy)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Romero, Otamendi (A), Livakovic, Kovacic (C); Added Time: 1st Half 4′, 2nd Half 5′
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