Lionel Messi’s eternal dream of leading Argentina to World Cup glory will live on until the last day of Qatar 2022, as La White It was produced in Croatia’s 3-0 victory in the semifinals on Tuesday.
Two first-half goals, the first from Messi’s penalty and the second from Julian Alvarez’s solo effort, put Argentina in the lead, a position Croatia never looked like recovering from.
Alvarez sealed the victory with Argentina’s third goal in the second half following a wonderful assist from Messi, providing the South American team and its 35-year-old captain with a chance to exorcise the demons for the 2014 final defeat, as well as win the country’s first World Cup title since 1986.
Messi played the part, feeling his left hamstring, although not guessing that he was in any trouble spotted on his way, with a twisted run bamboozled Joško Gvardiol, one of the best defenders of this tournament, to create Argentina’s third goal.
Messi’s near-superhuman strength is undoubtedly weakening as he plays in the twilight of his career, but the little wizard still has the ability to deliver moments of genius when his country needs it most.
A goal against Mexico in the group stages, an assist against the Netherlands in the quarterfinals and a superior performance in Tuesday’s semifinal gave the 45 million people who think he is not far from a god even more memorable moments.
As many as 40,000 Argentina fans are estimated to have traveled to Qatar for this World Cup, according to the Argentine embassy in Qatar, and they were all inside the Lusail Stadium on Tuesday night.
As the clock ticked deeper into injury time and victory was beyond doubt, the Argentina bench and coaching staff began to join in with chants and rhythmic chants that roared from the stands.
After the final whistle, Argentina’s players stood in front of a giant wall of blue and white shirts and took in the adulation of the adoring fans.
It’s almost impossible to believe that this is the same team that lost 2-1 to Saudi Arabia just three weeks ago in their opening group stage match – a performance so bland and lacking inspiration that it left some doubt whether Argentina would even make it. from the group
Now, against either France or Morocco, Messi will have one last chance to lift the trophy he so desperately wants.
When asked if Sunday’s game will be his last in the World Cup, Messi replied: “Yes. Yes, whether It’s a lot of years until the next one and I don’t think I’m going to end it well.
“[I feel] I’m happy to get it. To finish my World Cup career my last game was playing in the final. Everything I have experienced in this World Cup, what people have experienced and how much people have brought back in Argentina, everyone is very emotional.
“I enjoy everything a lot, I am strong enough to be able to face each part. We came through many great sacrifices, like playing overtime which was not easy. We were lucky but the group gave a little more, it was a tough game that we prepared for the road.
“We know we’re going to have the ball a lot and we’re going to have our chances. It was well prepared that I always take care of us, and I am happy, I enjoy every lot.”
In Messi and Croatia’s Luka Modrić, both captains led their countries in losing the World Cup finals, and this is the last chance to get both hands on football’s most coveted prize.
Neither side is among the favorites for the Qatar 2022 tournament, but Croatia stunned the world four years ago by reaching the final and again in Qatar in the previous round, eliminating pre-tournament favorites Brazil on penalties in a display of sheer gridiron. and determination.
Modrić, Croatia’s star player and a living legend in the small Balkan nation, has struggled in the biggest matches and, alongside Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic, has been arguably the best part of Qatar’s midfield.
Argentina also fell into the tournament in the same way – although after that stunning defeat in Saudi Arabia, it could hardly do worse.
The team, who now seem to believe the script for Messi’s last dance to end in glory on Sunday, is almost unknown to him who took to the pitch that day.
Although Croatia started the match with the better margin of the two teams, these players played as many minutes as possible in Qatar, winning against Japan and Brazil on penalties following two energy spells in extra time.
Their legs looked tired to show early in the Lusail Stadium and even one mistake at this stage is likely to prove costly.
That proved to be the case for Croatia as, surprisingly, Modrić was the ball of all men in midfield and Gvardiol failed to track down Alvarez, leaving Dominik Livakovic – twice scored in Croatia’s Qatar – to land one of the City forwards against Manchester. .
Alvarez clipped the ball around Livakovic, whose outstretched leg brought out the striker and Messi made no mistake in converting the resulting penalty, smashing it deep into the top corner.
It was Messi’s 11th World Cup goal, passing Gabriel Batistuta as Argentina’s all-time leading goal scorer in World Cup finals.
The match quickly looked like it was going away from Croatia as Alvarez made it 2-0 just five minutes later.
Borna Sosa’s poor cross sent the Argentine goal into the box, with Alvarez running three-quarters of the length of the pitch and, after two fortuitous ricochets in the box, buried the ball past Livakovic.
Only a stunning reflex save from Livakovic preempted the score in Croatia before half-time, but it would take something extra special, even for a team used to conjuring up exciting miracles, to pull this off.
However, Croatia offered little progress in the middle, a combination of tired attacking play and Argentina’s strong defending, and their strength lasted until the 70th minute.
Messi picked up a high ball and ran past Guardiol before finding Alvarez inside the box to send Argentina fans into raptures inside the Lusail Stadium.
Argentina, written by many as inferior to the other World Cup contenders, was not believed to make it to the final match in Qatar, but Messi’s determination and simplicity helped it.