January 28, 2023

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Argentina defeats Croatia, keeping Lionel Messi’s final-dance hopes alive.

Argentina defeats Croatia, keeping Lionel Messi’s final-dance hopes alive.

Argentina defeats Croatia, keeping Lionel Messi’s final-dance hopes alive.

The Argentine team’s first goal was scored by Lionel Messi from the penalty spot, and he was understandably ecstatic about it.
Argentines’ first goal, scored by Lionel Messi, sparks wild celebrations from the —
With Tuesday’s 3-0 semifinal victory over a tired-looking Croatia, La Albiceleste kept alive Lionel Messi’s dream of leading Argentina to World Cup glory until the very last day of Qatar 2022.

Messi’s penalty andJulian Alvarez’s solo effort in the first half gave Argentina a commanding lead that they never let go of, and Croatia never looked like they were going to come back from.
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With Argentina’s third goal in the second half, scored by Alvarez off a wonderful assist from Messi, the South American team and its 35-year-old captain were able to put behind them the heartbreak of losing the 2014 final and win the tournament for the first time since 1986.

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Messi played with some discomfort in his left hamstring, but you’d never know it from watching his mazy, twisting run that fooled Joko Gvardiol, one of the best defenders in the tournament, and led to Argentina’s third goal.

There’s no denying that Messi’s near superhuman powers are waning as he plays in the latter stages of his career, but the little magician still has the ability to deliver moments of genius just when his country needs him most.

After doubling Argentina’s lead, Julian Alvarez and Lionel Messi celebrate.
As Argentina’s lead grows to four goals, Julian Alvarez joins in the celebration with Lionel Messi.
Getty Images/Richard Heathcote Pictures from Europe via Getty Images
A country of 45 million people who consider him to be almost a deity have been given even more unforgettable moments thanks to his goal against Mexico in the group stages, his assist against the Netherlands in the quarterfinals, and his overall performance in Tuesday’s semfinal.

The Argentine embassy in Qatar estimates that as many as 40,000 Argentine fans made the trip to Qatar for the World Cup, and it sounded like they were all inside the Lusail Stadium on Tuesday night.

In the final minutes of extra time, when Argentina’s victory was assured, the team’s bench and coaching staff began to sing and chant along with the fans.

The Argentina team celebrated their victory by standing in front of a sea of blue and white shirts after the final whistle.

Some doubted Argentina’s chances of advancing past the group stage after a lackluster performance in a 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia three weeks ago.

Messi will play France or Morocco for the final time in his quest to win the trophy.

This is your fated meeting
Both Lionel Messi and Luka Modri have been captains of their respective countries in previous World Cup finals where their teams came up short.

Neither team was considered a favorite coming into Qatar 2022, but Croatia surprised the world by making it to the final four years ago, and they did it again in the first round by beating pre-tournament favorite Brazil in a penalty shootout.

Modri, Croatia’s star player and a living legend in the small Balkan nation, is a veteran of the biggest games and has been a part of arguably the best midfield in Qatar alongside Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic.

There would be no repeat for Luka Modric and Croatia at the World Cup finals.
Croatia did not advance to a second straight World Cup final despite Luka Modric’s best efforts.
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The above image is courtesy of CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/AFP via Getty Images.
Also, Argentina has gotten better as the tournament has progressed, though it could hardly get worse after losing so shockingly to Saudi Arabia.

Team almost unrecognizable from the one that played that day, with everyone now convinced that Messi’s final dance will end in glory on Sunday.

Croatia had the better start, but after playing extra time and winning on penalties against Japan and Brazil, these players were exhausted.

They appeared to be feeling the effects of fatigue early on in the Lusail Stadium, and any missteps at this level are likely to have dire consequences.

In the end, that’s exactly what happened for Croatia, as Modri, of all people, gave the ball away in the middle of the field, and Gvardiol failed to track Alvarez, leaving Dominik Livakovic, twice Croatia’s shootout hero in Qatar, exposed to a one-on-one against the Manchester City forward.

Messi made no mistake with the penalty kick after Alvarez poked the ball around Livakovic’s outstretched leg and the striker was taken down.

With his eleventh World Cup goal, Messi surpassed Gabriel Batistuta as Argentina’s all-time leading scorer in World Cup finals.

After Alvarez made it 2-0 just five minutes later, it appeared as though the game was getting away from Croatia.

At the final whistle, the Argentine team and their supporters celebrate a victory.
At the final whistle, the Argentine team and their supporters celebrate a victory.
Images by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Pictures from Europe via Getty Images
Alvarez ran three-quarters of the length of the field and buried the ball past Livakovic after two fortunate ricochets in the box set off the Argentine counterattack after Borna Sosa’s poor cross into the box.

Before halftime, Croatia’s only hope was a stunning reflex save from Livakovic, but even for a team accustomed to conjuring footballing miracles, it would take something extra special to come back from this one.

Croatia, however, offered very little going forward in the second half due to a combination of tired attacking play and resolute Argentine defense, and the team managed to stave off the ax until the 70th minute.

Argentine fans in the Lusail Stadium went wild after Messi picked up the ball deep, dribbled past Gvardiol, and found Alvarez in the box.

The oddsmakers didn’t have Argentina, widely considered to be a weaker team than the others in the tournament, making it to the championship game in Qatar, but a focused and determined Messi has made that a reality.