Argentina 3-0 Croatia: Match report, player ratings, fan reaction & more

A brace from Manchester City starlet Julián Álvarez accentuated another masterful performance by Lionel Messi as Argentina have reached the final, giving the living-legend one final chance at footballing immortality

Lionel Messi will have a chance to get his moment in the sun in Qatar this winter after Argentina ran out 3-0 winners over Croatia at Lusail Iconic Stadium in what was arguably the best performance perpetrated by the reigning South American champions thus far at the 2022 World Cup.

In a match that was billed as possibly producing another potential in what has been a fantastic tournament, Argentina dispelled any notion that their shock loss on matchday one against Saudi Arabia rendered them incapable of challenging with a consummate performance against a vaunted Croatia side justifiably lauded for their ability to battle against the odds, with Messi once more proving himself to be otherwordly once again.

Croatia started as the brighter of the two sides with early dominance in possession in the opening ten minutes of action with Argentina also dodging bullets early on after both Lionel Messi and Cristian Romero seemed to each be struggling with potential knocks, though those concerns soon dissipated.

Argentina finally tested Dominik Livaković in the 25th minute after Enzo Fernández tried to bend his effort into the far post from outside the area, but the Dinamo Zagreb shot-stopper parried away comfortably. The South American giants had begun to work themselves better into proceedings by this stage as the match slowly began to develop with half-chances starting to creep to the surface.

But in the 34th minute the match finally opened after Julián Álvarez was put through on goal one-on-one with Livaković before being taken down by the Croatian keeper for Messi to step up and smash the resulting penalty for his fifth goal of the tournament, joining Kylian Mbappé for the goalscoring lead in Qatar as well as passing Gabriel Batistuta as the all-time leading goalscorer for Argentina at the World Cup.

The reigning Copa America champions doubled their lead just four minutes later after Argentina broke with intent after clearing from Croatia’s corner before Álvarez picked up possession at the halfway line and ran 60 yards and weaving his way - with assistance from poor defending - through Croatia’s tracking back defenders before slotting past Livaković as his breakout on the world stage continued.

Proceedings nearly got out of hand if not for Livaković making a fantastic quick-reaction save to deny Alexis Mac Allister from a close-range header off a corner to keep the scoreline at 2-0 as Croatia was now under siege with Argentina smelling blood in the water, but the scoreline remained locked as it stood going into the half-time interval.

Croatia made three changes to begin the opening minutes of the second stanza and began to turn the screw in a more effective way on set pieces with a few more half chances resulting, but as they began to chase the match, space continued to open up for Argentina to look to find a third through hitting the former runner-up on the break.

It would all be for naught, however, when Argentina tripled their advantage in the 70th minute when Álvarez slotted home from close range after Messi turned the clock back to skin Joško Gvardiol multiple times before straddling the end line only to cut back for the Manchester City youngster to put a cap on a brilliant bit of individual brilliance.

As the inevitable result drew closer and the embers began to die out in the caldron that was Lusail, Luka Modrić came off for the final time at the World Cup stage and received deserved applause from friend and foe in the stands alike as an era in Croatian football came to an end.

When it was all said and done, Argentina booked their passage to the World Cup final while Messi is now set to receive his date with destiny and the possible chance to enter his name into footballing immortality to not only achieve the most appearances on footballs biggest stage but to do it while having a chance to, finally, achieve the one thing many thought he never would.

Argentina Player Ratings

  • Emiliano Martínez (GK): 7
  • Nahuel Molina (RB): 7
  • Cristian Romero (CB): 6.5
  • Nicolás Otamendi (CB): 6.5
  • Nicolás Tagliafico (LB):
  • Rodrigo De Paul (RM): 7
  • Leandro Paredes (CM): 7
  • Enzo Fernández (CM): 7
  • Alexis Mac Allister (LM): 7
  • Lionel Messi (RF): 9
  • Julián Álvarez (LF): 8.5
  • Lisandro Martínez (Sub): 6.5
  • Exequiel Palacios (Sub): 6
  • Paulo Dybala (Sub): 6
  • Ángel Correa (Sub): 6
  • Juan Foyth (Sub): 6

Croatia Player Ratings

  • Dominik Livaković (GK): 6
  • Josip Juranović (RB): 6
  • Dejan Lovren (CB): 6
  • Joško Gvardiol (CB): 6
  • Borna Sosa (LB): 5.5
  • Marcelo Brozović (DM): 6
  • Luka Modrić (CM): 7.5
  • Mateo Kovačić (CM): 7
  • Mario Pašalić (RW): 6
  • Ivan Perišić (LW): 6
  • Andrek Kramarić (CF): 5.5
  • Mislav Oršić (Sub): 6
  • Nikola Vlašić (Sub): 6
  • Bruno Petković (Sub): 6
  • Marko Livaja (Sub): 6
  • Lovro Majer (Sub): 6

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Andrew Thompson

US-based Football writer. German football guru with a wealth of experience in youth development and analysis. Data aficionado. Happily championing the notion that Americans have a knowledgeable voice in the beautiful game.

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