Argentina is again in the final of the World Cup. Eight years after Lionel Messi got his best shot at winning the trophy, he’s getting another chance.
The Albiceleste were amazing in a 3-0 win, starring their number 10. Now the South American country has a sixth showpiece to look forward to this Sunday.
Here are the top five takeaways FourFourTwo has learned over the course of another action-packed day at the World Cup.
Lionel Messi’s ‘modified’ game is still unplayable
Lionel Messi may have passed players with ease ten years ago, but Father Time reaches everyone. But as he proved tonight, his second best option is still excellent.
Messi almost had to come to a stop in his mazy run past Josko Gvardiol to set up Argentina’s third-place finish. Gvardiol has not been slow in this tournament either. It shows that the Flea has adapted his game well and that while defenders are no longer worried about Messi outrunning them, he has other weapons to draw from.
His strength and balance are now his strongest attributes as he pulls away from players – more than speed these days. Oh, and the last ball to Julian Alvarez wasn’t half bad either.
Perhaps other players slowly entering their 30s can learn a thing or two from the big man.
Julian Alvarez is much more than just a background artist
Lautaro Martinez started the World Cup up front for Argentina. Julian Alvarez stepped in and hasn’t looked back.
Time at the national level is limited for the 22-year-old given that arguably the greatest centre-forward in the world has taken that spot – but Alvarez can certainly combine it with Argentina’s other options. He is one of the best attackers in this tournament, has a game knowledge that Martinez lacked and does the hard work that Messi can no longer do.
Not only does he offer something to the World Cup finalists, does it give Pep Guardiola food for thought? Of course Erling Haaland doesn’t need that a lot Help, but Alvarez returns to the Etihad Stadium, probably with more credit than any other City star.
He was super again tonight and will certainly start a World Cup final for his country on Sunday. It’s well deserved.
Croatia (desperately) needs a centre-forward
Croatia’s reliance on extra time and penalties has been a minor point of discussion not only at this World Cup, but also at the previous World Cup. In 2018, Luka Modric & Co. not winning a single knockout match in normal time despite reaching the final. In Qatar, they needed extra time and penalties in both previous rounds after the group stage before losing to Argentina.
While this has garnered a lot of praise for Croatia’s stamina and character, it speaks volumes for their game-killing ability. A clinical party does not have to run itself round after round; they would win in the allotted 90 minutes.
For all their brilliant midfield schemers, Croatia simply don’t have a gunfighter up front. Their top scorer in Russia was Ivan Perisic, with three hits. This time, with Andrej Kraramic, they left their top scorer, with two. It’s not good enough and the Croatian Football Association will keep a close eye on the next generation, hoping a poacher shows up.
Luka Modric bows to a legend
A country with only 3.5 million inhabitants should not make it to one World Cup semi-final, no matter how football-crazy it is. Croatia have achieved two and much of that is due to the generational talent of their captain and talisman Luka Modric.
The Real Madrid man left the field bruised and broken after the final whistle in Qatar, knowing it was his last chance to secure a World Cup. He’ll be bitterly disappointed, but he doesn’t have to. Modric was sensational again at this World Cup, setting the rhythm for his team’s attacking play and running for a good cause.
The 2018 Ballon d’Or winner may never get the title he most desires, but he will go down as a legend, having inspired his team to two top four finishes. Thanks for the memories, Luka.
He has been the star of the tournament… not Messi, McCoist.
The former Rangers man was in electric form during the World Cup and Twitter got his wish when McCoist was dropped in the commentary booth as the third wheel for Sam Matterface and Lee Dixon. The contrast between Dixon’s gruff nonchalance and McCoist’s restrained pleasure was plain to see, with the Scot coming out on top for fun.
It’s that he makes his job sound like he’s doing it for free. His “chat” doesn’t feel forced and he tries not to say anything too exaggerated. He lets Messi speak.
Getting Ally on ITV’s last big solo game before the finals feels like they’re realizing just how popular the big man really is. Can we have him at Premier League games after this is all over?
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