Argentina secured their place in the 2022 World Cup final with a statement 3-0 win against Croatia on Tuesday evening.
Lionel Messi and Julian Alvarez led La Albiceleste’s charge from the front, putting their plucky underdog opponents to the sword and ensuring Argentina’s passage to Sunday’s showdown was smooth.
After a cagey and tense opening 25 minutes, the game sprung into life when Argentina caught Croatia cold on a counter attack. Enzo Fernandez’s through ball over the top for Alvarez looked to have been skewed, but the striker took it in his stride well and made a run for goal. He attempted to dink Dominik Livakovic and while his effort was cleared off the line, the goalkeeper had impeded him and a penalty was awarded.
Messi stepped up and hammered the spot kick into the top right corner to break the deadlock and put Argentina in front, becoming his country’s all-time scorer at World Cups in the process.
Soon after, Argentina grabbed their second, once again making the most of a quick break. Croatia were left scrambling trying to deal with the pace of Alvarez on the ball and the run of Nahuel Molina to his right. Josip Juranovic and Borna Sosa attempted to rob the Manchester City youngster of possession, but it kept bobbling right back into his path and he eventually managed to poke the ball past Livakovic.
Dalic didn’t spend time dawdling and threw on Mislav Orsic and Nikola Vlasic at the start of the second man, with quarter-final hero Bruno Petkovic quickly following.
After a quick give-and-go with Alvarez around the back of Josko Gvardiol, Messi managed to remain on his feet and fire a shot at Livakovic’s near post, but the Dinamo Zagreb stopper was equal to his effort.
Dejan Lovren’s header on the hour mark from an in-swinging free-kick was mistimed and allowed Martinez to gratefully claw it away from immediate danger, with his defenders sweeping up afterwards.
Argentina’s third of the evening was all about Messi again, twisting and turning his way round Gvardiol again before sliding the ball across for Alvarez to tap in and all but secure the victory.
Luka Modric was withdrawn in the final ten minutes to an appreciative reception from a largely Argentine crowd, who nearly saw their side add a fourth when Paulo Dybala teed up Alexis Mac Allister almost by accident, eventually threading him through but with the final shot off target.
At the other end, Lovro Majer’s corner was cleverly flicked on by Ivan Perisic and right through the six yard box, with Lovren the closest to getting a telling touch.
Confirmation of Argentina’s progression to the final was confirmed following five minutes of stoppage time, with Croatia’s dream coming to an end.