Key battles as Argentina take on Croatia in the World Cup semi-finals

Argentina and Croatia will battle for a spot in next Sunday’s World Cup final at the Lusail Stadium on Tuesday night. Both teams qualified for the semi-finals via penalties.

Lionel Messi and Argentina defeated the Netherlands in a World Cup classic. Meanwhile, Croatia stunned pre-tournament favorites Brazil.

Luka Modrić hopes to go one step further than Russia four years ago. At the time, the European side finished second only to France. At the same time, Argentina is trying to win the coveted trophy for the first time since 1986. In 2014, Brazil narrowly missed out after losing to Germany in extra time.

The World Cup fights between Argentina and Croatia

Here are the main battles that could decide the delicious clash.

The midfield sets the tone

With Modrić, Mateo Kovačić and Marcelo Brozović, Croatia has arguably the best midfield trio in the world. Zlatko Dalic’s men line up in a 4-3-3 and dominate the game in the center of the field. It can also switch to a 4-5-1 without the ball. In addition, Andrej Kramarić and Mario Pašalić work tirelessly in a midfield of five.

Croatia try to slow Argentina’s pace with their retention. Moving the ball makes it difficult for La albiceleste to gain a foothold in the game.

Lionel Scaloni coped well with the loss of Giovani Lo Celso throughout the tournament. Alexis Mac Allister, Enzo Fernandez and Rodrigo De Paul formed a formidable partnership. The side has a vertical transition to add to the attack at every opportunity.

Earlier, De Paul took care of an injury before the game to play 65 minutes against the Netherlands. Argentina requires its midfield metronome to be fully fit ahead of its World Cup clash with Croatia. The Atletico star will be a key player to take down Brozović and Modrić. The former ran over 10 miles against Japan in the Round of 16. Again he put on a long burst against Brazil in the quarterfinals.

Argentina must close off space to prevent Croatia from dictating procedure and will need to hit the European side with a quick build-up that will put pressure higher up the pitch and into the final third.

Wingplay could determine the outcome

Argentina enters the game without fullbacks Marcos Acuña and Gonzalo Montiel. Both received a suspension after an accumulation of yellow cards. Missing Acuña will be a huge blow to Scaloni. The Sevilla star was a revelation in the tournament. The 31-year-old is solid defensively and contributes tirelessly on the left wing.

Acuña eliminated Denzel Dumfries against the Netherlands. In the same game, he won the penalty that saw Argentina race to a 2–0 lead. With Acuña out for the clash, Croatia will look to exploit the left wing with Pašalić and Josip Pašalić chasing in pairs, especially the latter who had a great game against Brazil and managed to keep Vinicus Jr and Rodrygo quiet throughout.

The right wing is where Argentina has an advantage, Nahuel Molina scored the opener against the Dutch thanks to Messi’s incredible reverse pass-assist and the Atletico full-back will cherish his chances against Kramarić, while also taking on left-back Borna Sosa with his quick runs.

De Paul has played an admirable role on the right and should Angel Di Maria be fit and ready Croatia will face constant pressure on the right flank.

Messi moments and Gvardiol

Joško Gvardiol is probably in the shape of his life. Once again Croatia rely on the 20-year-old central defender to keep Argentina at bay. The RB Leipzig star performed above his age. Alongside Dejan Lovren, the pair proved to be a solid pairing at the heart of the defence.

Argentina will try to push high with Julian Alvarez up front, while Lionel Messi will live for his ‘moments’. The 35-year-old PSG star seemed unplayable during the World Cup. Despite Croatia’s wealth of talent, it should keep a close eye on the diminutive left-footed genius.

Messi seems to drift in half spaces and drag the defenders out of possession. Then he goes into the last third himself or tries to create an opportunity when there seemed little danger. As Dalic said, his team must be there disciplined best to contain the Messi threat.


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