Argentina are 90 minutes away from lifting the World Cup. Thanks to a pair of otherworldly performances by the attacking duo of Lionel Messi and Julián Álvarez, the Argentinians defeated Croatia, 3-0, in the World Cup semifinal on Tuesday in Al Khor, Qatar.
Messi and Álvarez’s fingerprints were all over both of Argentina’s goals in the first half. The first came via a penalty earned by the young Manchester City forward, as Álvarez was played in by a ball over the top of Croatia’s defense. He ran right past the center back duo of Joško Gvardiol and Dejan Lovren, which caused Dominik Livaković to come out of his goal to try and challenge him. Álvarez’s effort to chip him was for naught, but a collision between the forward and the goalkeeper led to a penalty
Messi stepped up to the spot, and even though Livaković guessed right, the penalty could not have been any more perfect.
It took less than five minutes for the Argentinians to find a second. Messi got a touch on a ball off of a Croatia corner kick and got wiped out. Unfortunately for the Croatians, it landed right at the feet of Álvarez, who ran straight through their defense, remained composed despite the ball taking a few deflections, and scored arguably the best individual effort we’ve seen in Qatar.
Argentina got a third in the second half, and unsurprisingly, the same two players combined to put the game away. Messi was marked by Gvardiol, who has been the best center back at the World Cup, near midfield. The greatest to ever play the game took off towards the box, and despite Gvardiol’s best efforts, there was nothing he could do to prevent Messi from finding a window of space to pass the ball right into Álvarez’s feet. The rest was easy, and in the blink of an eye, the ball was in the back of the net.
The win puts Messi one win away from lifting the World Cup, marking the second time he’s made it to a final on the sport’s biggest stage. The last time he was in this spot was 2014, when Argentina took on Germany in the final and were beaten in extra time, 1-0. Argentina won its only World Cup back in 1986, and will face either France or Morocco in the final this time around.