Lionel Messi inspires Argentina to World Cup final after comfortable Croatia victory

Lionel Messi inspires Argentina to World Cup final after comfortable Croatia victory
Lionel Messi and Julian Alvarez both scored in the first half
Lionel Messi and Julian Alvarez both scored in the first half
AFP, StatsPerform
A scintillating display from Lionel Messi led Argentina to a sixth World Cup final appearance after he scored from the spot and Julian Alvarez netted twice to see the South Americans to a 3-0 win over a tired-looking Croatia in the first World Cup semi-final

Full Time: Argentina 3 Croatia 0

If before the game the talk was of the battle between Lionel Messi and Luka Modric, only one player came out on top and it was Messi. Running the show from behind Alvarez, who did net twice for Argentina, he was unstoppable, summed up by his fantastic play to set up his striker for his second and the team's third.

Lionel Messi's contribution to Argentina's third goal
Opta by StatsPerform

For Croatia, they struggled to match their intensity they had shown to get to the semi-final and this loss was a step too far for the Europeans.

If you missed any of the game, make sure to catch up with our full match report, written by Sunil Midda.

Second Half

90': Five minutes to be added on at the end of the 90.

89': A shot from distance Lovro Majer does force Argentina's Emi Martinez into a save, but it's a easy collection for him. Not long to go now before the party begins for those Argentine fans.

85': A lovely flick-on from Ivan Perisic nearly allows Dejan Lovren the chance to score at the back post, but he can't make contact. Their best chance of the half. Two final changes for Argentina as Alexis Mac Allister and Nahuel Molina come off for Juan Foyth and Angel Correa, both making their first appearance at this World Cup.

83': That would have certainly wrapped it up. Alexis Mac Allister, who has been brilliant for Argentina fires just wide of the right hand post from inside the box. 

80': Into the final 10 minutes, and it looks like - barring a miracle - we have our first finalist in Argentina. What a recovery from a team that lost their opening game against Saudi Arabia. Final substitute for Croatia, Luka Modric leaves the field to a rousing reception, Lovro Majer on in his place. Is that the last time we see Modric at a World Cup?

77': Croatia feel defeated out there, their tempo has dropped and Argentina are mopping up everything at the back. Nikola Orsic does try his luck with a curling effort, but it's high and wide.

71': Nicolas Otamendi picks up a yellow before Croatia make their fourth change of the night. Andrej Kramaric is replaced by Marko Livaja. Argentina also make a double substitution, as Julian Alvarez - on a hat-trick - is coming off for Pablo Dybala and Exequiel Palacios is on for Rodrigo De Paul.

69': ALVAREZ AGAIN! It's three for Argentina and that was all about Lionel Messi!

It's spellbinding from Messi. He gives one of the World Cup's best defenders, Josko Gvardiol, a terrible time, showing all of his guile and experience to get to the by-line and still has the presence to find Julian Alvarez for a simple tap-in. Genius from Messi.

68': Cristian Romero picks up Argentina's first yellow card of the game as he goes through the back of substitute Petkovic.

66': Argentina are using their pace to cause Croatia problems on the break. Messi challenges Lovren for a cross, but the defender will always win that.

63': The shot on goal does come for Croatia as Dejan Lovren meets a cross with a header but can only find the gloves of Emi Martinez. More of that needed for them if they are to get back into this.

62': A defensive change for the Argentinians as Leandro Paredes is coming off for Lisandro Martinez.

60': Thirty minutes to go and Croatia are yet to have a shot on target in this game. That has to change soon.

58': And then Messi has a great chance to make it three too. His lovely one-two sets him away and his shot forces Livakovic into a smart save.

56': Much like their second goal, Argentina catch Croatia cold on the break. Alvarez is away again and it takes a last-ditch tackle from Josko Gvardiol to stop Enzo Fernandez from making it three.

55': Already an air of desperation in Croatia's play as Dejan Lovren overhits a cross-field ball out for a throw. Their midfield two of Kovacic and Modric need to find the ball more.

50': Another change for Croatia. Marcelo Brozovic is off for Bruno Petkovic. The Europeans are going for broke early here.

49': An early free-kick comes to nothing for Croatia.

46': Back underway at Lusail Stadium and Croatia have made a double change in the hope of getting back into the contest. Nikola Vlasic and Mislav Orsic both on for Borna Sosa and Mario Pasalic.

Half Time

20:53 CET: Looking at the match stats from that first period, Croatia will be surprised at how they have been allowed to take the majority of possession. However, given Argentina's compact style, it has not allowed the likes of Modric, Brozovic and Kovacic to make too much of an impact so far.

First half match stats
Opta by StatsPerform

20:51 CET: A half that took time to get going, but, as has done throughout his stunning career, it was Lionel Messi who lit up this semi-final with an emphatic finish from the spot after Julian Alvarez had been clearly fouled in the box by Dominik Livakovic.

Alvarez's part in the second was much bigger, managing to just keep the ball under control and slide home Argentina's second six minutes before the break. For Croatia, they know they have a mountain to climb to reach their second straight World Cup final.

First Half

45': Nearly a way back into the game at the other end for Croatia. Modric combines with his right back to find a spare Perisic in the box, but Emi Martinez managed to shovel the ball away and Perisic can only find the side netting from the rebound. Four minutes to be added on at the end of the half. 

42': And Livakovic keeps them in the tie with an incredible reaction save. Alexis Mac Allister looks to have beaten the Croatian keeper from that corner, only to see him push it around the far post. A brilliant save!

41': Confidence flowing through the South Americans now as Rodrigo De Paul has a shot deflected behind for a corner. Croatia need to hang on until half-time without conceding again.

39': Julian Alvarez - with a good deal of luck - SCORES FOR ARGENTINA!

Breaking from a Croatia corner, Alvarez travels perhaps 40 metres and manages to keep the ball despite two ricochets off defenders, slipping home Argentina's second goal in five minutes - a big buffer before the break.

37': There were two booking before the penalty, both going to Croatia players. Livakovic was booked for the foul and Kovacic saw yellow for dissent.

36': Croatia find themselves in a similar position in a knockout game - behind. Remember they are the masters of the comeback and they gave plenty of time to find a way back into this match.

34': MESSIII... SCORES! Argentina have the lead from the spot and it's emphatic into the top corner! Who would doubt him?


Dominik Livakovic brings down Julian Alvarez and it's a clear spot kick. Only one man for this job...

30': Those on Messi watch tonight will be scared to hear that he has been stretching out his right hamstring over the last few minutes. He doesn't seem to be moving particularly well at the moment.

27': Croatia's midfield three have always had a lot of good said about them and so far tonight it is Mateo Kovacic leading the way. The Chelsea players has already shown a turn of pace to beat challenges, unfortunately for him his teammates can't capitalise.

25': After taking their time to find their feet, Argentina are growing into the game as Enzo Fernandez shoots from distance, which Livakovic has to turn around the post and collect. Argentina on the attack more and more now.

22': And that moment comes soon after as Messi bursts into life, nearly finding Alvarez with a piercing through ball before almost forcing an error soon after. The first we have seen from the magician.

19': Just one shot in the first 20 minutes and that was Lovren's header. Argentina will be disappointed they have not got Lionel Messi into the game yet, but they have faith that their talisman can turn a game in just one moment.

16': Some encournagement for Croatia as Modric wins a corner. They have the height advantage in the box, but instead they work it short, eventually finding centre back, Dejan Lovren, but he makes a poor connection and there's no panic for the South Americans.

14': Lionel Messi hits the deck right on the edge of the Croatia box. He implores with referee Daniele Orsato, but he waves it away. Messi looks very perturbed. Down the other end Argentina deal with another Perisic long throw. 

11': First one of Ivan Perisic's long throws, which Emi Martinez deals with - the Argentina stopper punches away. The game yet to spring into life and could be some time before it does, if we are going off the first 11 minutes.

7': Mario Pasalic upends Nicolas Tagliafico for an Argentina free-kick on halfway. There have already been a couple of tasty challenges, something to keep an eye on as the game progresses.

4': We have seen slown starts throughout the knockout games in this tournament and this is no different. First spot of danger for Croatia as Nahuel Molina outpaces Borna Sosa to get a cross into the box, but it is harmless for Dominik Livakovic. Argentina starting to control the ball and try a few passes to test Croatia. 

1': After 60 games, tonight we will find out who will be the first team to play on Sunday for football's ultimate prize. Handshakes and formalities complete, including a warm embrace between Luka Modric and Lionel Messi. We're underway - let's get down to business.


19:55 CET: Time for the anthems. This will be loud.

19:53 CET: Both teams are in the tunnel and the Argentinian fans are making a lot of noise in the stands. Let's hope the game matches their passion.

19:46 CET: We have mentioned him a couple of time already tonight, but the impact of Luka Modric will be key to this game. As you can see from his heat map from their quarter-final against Brazil, he roams all over the centre of the midfield and he will be expected to do the same tonight.

Luka Modric's Heat Map against Brazil
Opta by Stats Perform

19:38 CET: Something to add on to that last update, Croatia have lost just one of their last six World Cup knockout games - the 2018 final - with all of them going to extra time. They certainly don't go down without a fight.

19:35 CET: Both teams are out on the pitch warming up and both sides were taken the full distance in their quarter-finals, both of them winning on penalties. Will we see that again tonight?

19:20 CET: Just 40 minutes to go before kick-off as anticipation builds all around the world for the first semi-final clash between Argentina and Croatia. 

Much talk before the game has been about the stars of each team - Messi and Modric - and they will certainly have an impact of the game tonight. However, another player has been just as integral as his Croation captain in seeing his side reach the latter stages of the competition - Dominik Livakovic. Before we get into the action, why not check out our article on a goalkeeper taking centre stage at this World Cup.

Team News

Argentina made two changes in the starting eleven that won on penalties against the Netherlands for Tuesday's World Cup semi-final against Croatia, who named an unchanged line-up.

Nicolas Tagliafico will start as left full-back in place of suspended Marcos Acuna while Leandro Paredes comes into midfield with defender Lisandro Martinez on the bench.

Croatia will start with the same team that beat Brazil, also on penalties, in the quarter-finals.

Argentina captain Lionel Messi is playing in his 25th World Cup match to level with German great Lothar Matthaeus as the joint record holder for most appearances in the tournament.

Argentina: Emiliano Martinez, Cristian Romero, Nicolas Otamendi, Nahuel Molina, Nicolas Tagliafico, Leandro Paredes, Rodrigo De Paul, Alexis Mac Allister, Enzo Fernandez, Julian Alvarez, Lionel Messi

Croatia: Dominik Livakovic, Borna Sosa, Ivan Perisic, Dejan Lovren, Mateo Kovacic, Andrej Kramaric, Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic, Mario Pasalic, Josko Gvardiol, Josip Juranovic


Few could have predicted who would reach the semi-finals at this year's World Cup in Qatar. Many of the pre-tournament heavyweights have been dumped out spectacularly and, aside from the expected presence of France, we are left with a rather surprising final quartet. 

Lionel Messi's World Cup fairytale is still alive and he will lead Argentina in the first semi-final tonight at the Lusail Iconic Stadium against a Croatia side that continues to surprise the world with their never-say-die attitude. 

Both of these sides progressed to the semi-final stage with penalty shootout victories that will have drained them both emotionally and physically. If this match goes beyond the regulation 90 minutes, it could be a matter of which team has more energy left in the tank.

Croatia will be hoping they can do what they did four years ago in Russia - in reaching another final - to give themselves a chance of winning what would be a remarkable first-ever title.

Argentina will be desperate to make a sixth World Cup final appearance and lift the trophy for the third time in the hope of immortalising Messi amongst the greats of the game.


France gouvernement

Les jeux d’argent et de hasard peuvent être dangereux : pertes d’argent, conflits familiaux, addiction…

Retrouvez nos conseils sur (09-74-75-13-13, appel non surtaxé)

Do you want to withdraw your consent to display betting ads?
Yes, change settings