Argentina 3-0 Croatia: A trio of goals sends Messi and co. into 2022 World Cup Final

Argentina is the first team to book their place in the 2022 Qatar World Cup final, after a 3-0 win over Croatia. The victory sees the nation heading into the final stage of the tournament for the sixth time in its history. Here’s how Argentina vs Croatia unfolded.

A Julian Alvarez brace and a Lionel Messi penalty comfortably booked Lionel Scaloni’s side into the World Cup final. On Sunday evening, Argentina will either face Morocco or two-time winners France.

Argentina vs Croatia post-match report.
Image credit: Getty Images

Starting XI: Argentinian changes and an unchanged Croatian team

For Argentina vs Croatia. the former made three changes to its starting XI. Due to Gonzalo Montiel and Marcos Acuna being suspended, Nicolas Tagliafico came into the team to replace the latter. Elsewhere, Lisandro Martinez was replaced by Leandro Paredes. 

The chosen XI also saw some big milestones being celebrated. Argentina vs Croatia marked the 25th time that Messi had appeared in a World Cup.

Elsewhere, Rodrigo De Paul and Paredes made their 50th appearances for their nation.

After their penalty shootout victory against Brazil last week, Zlatko Dalic decided to leave his Croatian side unchanged. Luka Modric wore the captain’s armband, while fan-favourite Dominik Livakovic once again stepped into goal. 

First half:Messi opens the scoreline while Livakovic makes some big saves

After a scrappy first 20 minutes, the first real chance of the game came in the 25th as Livakovic was forced to palm away a curled Enzo Fernandez strike. 

Seven minutes later, the referee made the first two bookings of the game. Firstly, Livakovic was shown a yellow for bringing down Alvarez in the six-yard box, while Mateo Kovacic was shown one for dissent.

A little bit of Messi magic opened the scoreline for Argentina in the 34th minute. His strike evaded penalty-culprit Livakovic, hitting the right-hand corner of the Croatian goal. This marked Messi’s 11th goal at the 2022 World Cup.

Five minutes later, Argentina were two up. Alvarez, with a sensational run, broke away down the centre pitch. Scooting his way around the Croatian defence, he tapped the ball into the back of the net at close range. 

Another shot for Argentina in the 42nd from Alexis Mac Allister was close. However, Livakovic managed to stop the header from sneaking into the bottom corner of his net. 

Five minutes of added time was allotted, but it wasn’t long enough for Dalic’s side to have a proper go.

Despite Croatia having a staggering 62% possession, it was Argentina who headed into the break 2-0 up. 

Second half: rotating teams and some more close shaves

Two changes to the Croatian XI opened the second half. Mario Pasalic was swapped for Nikola Vlasic, while Boma Sosa was benched for Mislav Orsic. Another change came in the 50th minute, with Marcelo Brozovic making way for Bruno Petkovic.

In the 58th, Livakovic was made to make another big save for his nation. The deadly duo of Messi and Alvarez ran the ball up the pitch before the former had a clear shot. Luckily, the Croatian goalkeeper managed to strike the ball away – but it was a close call.

Scaloni made his first change of the game in the 62nd minute. Leandro Paredes was replaced by Lisandro Martinez so that Argentina could strengthen their defence.

In the 68th minute, Cristian Romero became the first Argentinian player to be booked. A poor challenge on Bruno Petkovic forced the referee to show the defender a yellow. 

A beautiful brace seals the deal

However, the mistake was soon forgotten when Alvarez scored his second goal just a minute later. 

Some fancy footwork on the edge of the box from Messi allowed him the time and space to neatly slot the ball to Alvarez. The latter then shot the ball into the back of the net at close range, allowing Argentina vs Croatia to be won.

In the wake of the latest strike, Croatia made a couple of substitutions. Andrej Kramaric came off for Marko Livaja and 10 minutes later Modric was swapped for Lovro Majer.

Argentina also made a double substitution in the 74th minute. Rodrigo De Paul and goal scorer Alvarez were replaced by Exequiel Palacios and Paulo Dybala.

Another round of subs was then made, with Mac Allister coming off for Angel Correa and Nahuel Molina being swapped for Juan Foyth.

The fourth official indicated that six minutes of extra time would be added to Argentina vs Croatia, however, the game was as good as won. 

What’s next for Argentina?

It might be heartbreak for Croatia, but it was all smiles and excitement for Argentina. The latter will now face the winner of France vs Croatia on Sunday 18 December.

Croatia will then play the loser of the match to decide who will be taking third and fourth place.

Argentina vs Croatia ended 3-0.

Featured image credit:Getty Images