The two-time world champions of Argentina defeated Croatia 3-0 in the FIFA World Cup (WC) semi-finals to advance to their second WC final in eight years and sixth overall. Julián Alvarez epitomized an assured performance with a scorching brace.
With a valuable spot in the biggest game of international football on the line, both Argentina and Croatia got off to cautious starts, neither side taking a chance to open the scoring.
In contrast to what would ultimately happen, the Croats originally appeared to be the most in control, with their midfield trio starting to exert some genuine dominance over the game.
The Russia 2018 runners-up, though, lacked much of a presence up front and struggled to produce any meaningful chances, as has been their pattern in the tournament thus far.
The game suddenly sprung into life with two dramatic moments as the halfway point approached. First, with a beautiful defense-splitting ball, Enzo Fernández sent Alvarez through on goal. However, the striker clashed with an advancing Dominik Livakovi, earning Argentina a penalty.
Lionel Messi stepped up and drilled the penalty kick into the top-right corner to surpass all other goal-scorers in World Cup history.
The Albiceleste were incredibly energized by the score, and they increased their advantage minutes later to almost prolong their historic unbeaten streak in the World Cup semifinals.
The Argentines launched a quick counterattack after a corner from Croatia. Alvarez picked up the ball on the halfway line and ran into the opponent’s box with the help of a few fortunate deflections going his way.
Despite being in a tight spot, he poked the ball past Livakovi to give his team a two-goal advantage going into overtime.
At the start of the second half, Croatia committed a lot more men forward, knowing they had to radically alter their strategy.
But as was to be feared, Argentina was constantly in danger of a counterattack because to their theatrical attitude.
Unsurprisingly, Argentina won the match in the 69th minute thanks to another display of pure magic from countering master Messi, who weaved in and out of Joko Gvardiol before passing the ball to Alvarez, who tapped in his second of the game from close range and guaranteed Argentina’s spot in the World Cup final.
After disposing of Croatia today, Argentina will play either France, the defending World Cup champions, or Morocco in Lusail on Sunday.
The nation’s first final since Diego Maradona’s passing falls on Messi and company, who last won the world championship in 1986.
The PSG legend himself is aware that his final opportunity to win the ultimate prize is now just days away.