The first goal came from fantastic movement and quick thinking from the Manchester City man, the same with the second, where he didn't give up and rightly claimed his goal. The third goal, although finished by Álvarez, was a work of art from Lionel Messi, who made Gvardiol - many people's choice for defender of the tournament - look like a complete novice. Messi twisted and turned and squirmed his way around, under, over and through Gvardiol all at the same time, dematerialising his physical form and appearing on the other side in a feat of physics that scientists from this century are surely not familiar with. Argentina look scarily good; their evolution into the final stage is complete and either France or Morocco are going to have to have the performance to mark a generation if they want to beat this side. 3-0 ARGENTINA ARE THROUGH TO THE QATAR WORLD CUP FINAL.
They look very dangerous so far and whatever Argentina's plan is, it's not clicking just yet. Some delightful link-up play between Modric and Pasalic ends in the European side getting a corner. That was beautiful interplay on the right wing. The corner comes to nothing; Lovren heads over. Over 60%possessionforCroatia so far...
MAC ALLISTER COMES CLOSE! He meets a chipped ball over the top from Dybala but blasts his shot wide. Luka Modric comes off. What a sensational player. He tried everything tonight. Replaced by Majer. Argentina are sitting in a 5-2-2-Messi and are soaking up everything that is being thrown at them. Modric - yes, Modric - misplaces a pass. You don't see that very often. Orsic with a nice bit of footwork on the left but he bends a shot high and wide. Croatia look understandably deflated...
Messi tries to find space for himself behind Sosa but the play is well cut out by the Croatia defence. Croatia had played absolutely impeccably until that lapse in concentration punished them. But, if we've learnt anything from this World Cup, we cannot write them off just yet... Back underway. 1-0 BOOM! There was no stopping that!!! Top right corner! It nearly ripped the net! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLMESSI PUTS ARGENTINA ONE STEP CLOSER TO THE WORLD CUP FINAL!!!!!! And just like that, this game has turned on its head... Messi to take. Obviously. PENALTY FOR ARGENTINA!!! Livakovic brought down Álvarez after a ball was played perfectly over the top of the Croatian defence! The good work from the Croatia team ends in a shot from Perisic on the left side, who tries to chip it over the goalkeeper.
Luckily, his touch was heavy and Croatia quickly recovered possession again. Croatia are pressed all the way back to their own goal again, but they manage to pass around it and work the ball out from the left side. They looked very calm there. Quite a tense opening few minutes; both sides are cautiously smelling each other, like two wary dogs that meet for the first time. Tagliafico makes a great run down the left side and a long ball nearly finds him inside the box. Livakovic read it well to collect with ease.
Two giants of the game. Not Weghorst vs Argentina giant, but you know what I mean. Joe's match preview, part 2. Croatia, the only nation to (maybe) possess both gills and lungs, allowing them to receive the necessary amount of oxygen to play for 120 minutes, are in a World Cup semi-final for the second consecutive time. Modric, Brozovic and Kovacic will run and run and run and run (repeat ad infinitum) so taking them out of the game will not be a job that can be completed in the first 80 minutes of the match.
It's... France vs Morocco! Here is literallyeverythingyou could possibly want to knowabout that game, which you'll be able to follow right here on AS USA. The bond between the team and the fans is something specialLionel Scaloni came out 40 minutes after the match to thank the fans at the Lusail Stadium - and even do a little bit of dancing with them! Great football minds recognise each other. Di María was Modric's teammate at Real Madrid for 2 seasons; the Croatian played against Messi for almost a decade! Did you guess right? Of course you did! Who else could it be? MVP number 4 of 6 matches for the little Argentinian... Any guesses who got MVP? There's only one person, isn't there...
Here are the Argentina fans againMaking a lot of noise! We might see a 'home team vs away team' difference in atmospheres tonight... Here are the last 5 results between the two teams:1994: Croatia 0-0 Argentina (Friendly)1998: Argentina 1-0 Croatia (World Cup)2006: Croatia 3-2 Argentina (Friendly)2014: Argentina 2-1 Croatia (Friendly)2018: Argentina 0-3 Croatia (World Cup)2 wins for each team and a draw that was over 25 years ago - it could not be more finely balanced! The dressing room is ready! Argentina are playing in their classic blue and white tonight... Oh my, I just got very excited! Team news should be coming soon! Pep Guardiola has his World Cup favourite... Do you agree with the Manchester City manager? Which of these La Liga legends will come out on top? Messi vs Modric is the flavour of the day, as you would.
We've worked so hard to get here. I think we are deserving of this. We had a lot of faith, we came into the World Cup as champions of the Copa América. This team showed what it's capable of. Thank you to everyone for all the support. I hope the whole country is enjoying this, we are going to feel it from here. I'm happy, we deserved this. We are in the final and it's what we wanted. Now it's time to rest and try to have a good game on Sunday.
Saved easily by Livakovic. Martínez collect the cross from Modric. Free kick for Croatia on the right side after a foul from Otamendi. Messi is still fiddling with his hamstring... Sosa and Pasalic OFFOrsic and Vlasic ON OK, we're ready to go for the second half: here we go! Argentina kick us off from right to left.
Argentina are happy to sit their defenders on the edge of the box and wait for Croatia to make a mistake; it's a plan that is working nicely now they have an extra centre-back on the field. Fantastic recovery from Tagliafico as Croatia work the ball nicely from left to right. Argentina counter but that guy, Luka Modric, does amazingly well to win a foul and take the danger out of the attack. Juranovic goes on an inspired run down the right wing, absolutely blasting forward like he has fireworks on his, erm, feet. I think his feet were working quicker than his eyes because Tagliafico made it look very easy to stand in his way and steal the ball. CHANCE FOR CROATIA!!! Modric floated a cross in and Lovren got on the end of the ball, but Emi Martínez did too and managed to punch it away.
Álvarez chases down Livakovic and almost gets there before the goalkeeper clears the ball. Nerves all round for the European side. Croatia need the half-time whistle to go, Argentina can smell blood. Now Messi's corner from the right almost swings in! Another save from the goalkeeper! WHAT A SAVE FROM LIVAKOVIC!!!! THE HEADER WAS GOING IN FROM MAC ALLISTER Corner for Argentina; De Paul's shot was deflected by Gvardiol. Argentina look quite scary now... De Paul with a shot from the edge of the box that bounces wide. A PERFECT COUNTER FROM THE CORNER! Álvarez runs all the way down the pitch with the ball, right into the middle of the Croatian defence.
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Maybe they do not possess the star power of Argentina or France but their machine works perfectly: the players have known each other for years and they understand to perfection what the game requires to stay alive. Some people have called them the Terminator T-1000, but I haven't seen it, so I'll call them Ostriches, since they can run a marathon in 45 minutes. I reckon Luka Modric can do that, too. Joe's semi-final previewArgentina have changed slowly throughout the tournament, acting as the perfect proof of Darwin's theory of evolution, mutating and adapting to the circumstances and environments they have been placed in.
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Goal kick given, although it looked as though it came off De Paul... Croatia with the ball again, playing comfortably around the back, despite Argentina's attempt to press them. I've just seen a replay of that Enzo shot from earlier and I didn't give him credit for how well he placed the ball: it was curling in. Livakovic made the save look so casual he tricked me into thinking it wasn't going in! Modric heads away a cross from the resulting counter attack. Danger averted.
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He has a clear pass to De Paul on the left but instead goes alone, twisting through the defenders. The ball bounces off both of the Croatians that are inside the box but it falls to the Manchester City man who pokes it home to make it 2-0. GOOOOOOAAAALLLLLLLL ARGENTIIIINNNNAAAAAAAAAJULIÁN ÁLVAREZ!!!!! 2-0!!! Brozovic's cross is cleared, Argentina counter attack Croatia again with the ball; Argentina won't mind, given the situation. Corner for the European side.
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The ball has Connected Ball tech, to help the officials make offside decisions. Fifteen minutes to go! The warmups are finishing and the players are getting ready to go inside for the final team talk! Family Messi in the houseLeo Messi's wife Antonella Roccuzzo is in the house, along with the mini-Messis, Thiago, Mateo and Ciro. This is how things look on the outside... I told you the atmosphere was pretty wild at the Lusail Stadium! And it's only going to get better - just under half an hour to go! Since Messi vs Modric is the story of the night... Here is the head-to-head of the two players over their long and illustrious careers:Games: 26Messi wins: 9Modric wins: 12Draws: 5How will this change tonight? Both squads are on the pitch... Argentina have just come out onto the pitch at the Lusail Stadium to huge cheers! This is some atmosphere that is growing here! It's absolutely electric.
We are giving everything. Whatever happens, this team is going to do everything. When a team is united, the players can change but everyone pulls in the same direction. We are going to try acheive the dream. We are 26 warriors who are all prepared to fight for the people. We are a strong group, that's important. We were excited to get to the final. Now we have to try our best to achieve the objective. I still can't believe it.
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