It's a Messi World Cup Final
The two-time world champions, 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 game suddenly sprung into life with two dramatic moments as the halfway point approached. First, with a beautiful defense-splitting ball, Enzo Fernández sent Álvarez through on goal. However, the striker clashed with an advancing Dominik Livaković, 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 his nation's 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 World Cup semifinals. The Argentines launched a quick counterattack after a corner from Croatia. Álvarez 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 Livaković to give his team a two-goal advantage going into the break.
Knowing they had to drastically change their approach, Croatia committed a lot more men forward at the start of the second half. But as expected, their bombastic approach provided Argentina with a constant threat on the counter attack. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the battle was over in the 69th minute thanks to another moment of pure magic from countering master Messi, who dribbled in and around Joško Gvardiol, before squaring the ball to Álvarez, who tapped in his second of the night from close range and confirmed Argentina’s place in the WC 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, for a nation who last won the world cup in 1986. The PSG legend himself is aware that his final opportunity to win the ultimate prize is now just days away.