For the sixth time in its history, Argentina is playing in a World Cup final. LaAbiceleste put up a dominant game against 2018 runner-up Croatia on Tuesday.
Lionel Messi took the opening goal with a penalty in the first half. Still, it was Julian Alvarez who brought in the scoresheet with a brace. In addition, the Manchester City man drew the penalty that Messi put away.
Only 22 years old, Alvarez fulfilled the role of striker in its purest form. Runs through the defense led to the penalty and . He also showed his prowess as a finisher when he blocked Messi’s assist in the second half.
In reality, Argentina seemed to be the stronger of the two from the start. That trend continued throughout the 90 minutes.
Croatia actually had more possession, with 60% possession against Argentina’s 40%. Then the Vatreni attempted a total of 12 shots. That figure surpasses Argentina’s nine total attempts. In spite of the statistics that tell a storyCroatia seemed no match for Argentina.
Argentina, for example, had seven of those nine shots on target. On the other hand, Emiliano Martinez made only three saves on two shots on target from Croatia.
Josko Gvardiol, one of the tournament’s players at center back, struggled to keep Alvarez’s pace in check and Messi’s cunning footwork. Dejan Lovren, 33 years old and certainly playing in his last World Cup match, struggled more than his defensive partner.
Argentina has shown what it can be. Aggressive on the counter and stuck defensively. This is the team that won the Copa America 2021 and has a chance at the World Cup on Sunday.
Argentina has won a ticket to the 2022 World Cup final
Argentina will play the winner against Morocco and France, which happens at 2pm ET on Wednesday. Either way, the performance against Croatia will send Lionel Messi and company into that game with exorbitant confidence.
For example, Messi is level with France’s Kylian Mbappé in the Golden Boot Race. Admittedly, his penalty against Croatia was his third of his five total goals. However, he is not concerned with the quantity or the Golden Boot. He also has three assists, including the jewel for Alvarez for the third.
The mantra of this Argentina team is that it is much more than Lionel Messi. Julian Alvarez proved that too. His pair of goals were his third and fourth in the tournament. He looked like the outlet Lionel Messi needed in 2014 or missed in 2018.
Nicolas Otamendi and Cristian Romero are strong defensively. In addition, Lionel Scaloni has players like Lisandro Martinez or Nicolas Tagliafico, the latter who started against Croatia, who can fill in if needed.
Croatia was relegated to third place
Croatia, despite its performance against Argentina, has still had a hugely successful World Cup. His tried and true technique of waiting out the opposition and getting things done in penalty kicks or stoppage time worked wonders. It advanced past a Japanese side who defeated Germany and Spain in the group stage. Croatia then stunned Brazil after a stunning goal from Neymar looked set to send the five-time winners through to the semi-finals.
Luka Modrić was excellent even in the game against Argentina. He dictates an Argentine midfield that has a serious business of being the best in the tournament. Croatia’s goalkeeper, , made a strong effort to appear in every team in the world with his performances in the tournament.
Croatia’s tournament isn’t over yet, even if it can’t match or improve on its second-place finish four years ago. It’s Saturday waiting for the loser of the other semi-final in the game for third place. In all likelihood, this will be Luka Modrić’s last game in Croatia’s famous checkered kit.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Xinhua
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