Lionel Messi, in what is likely to be the last World Cup appearance of his illustrious career, will head to the final game in Qatar after defeating Croatia, 3-0, on Tuesday night.
It is the first time since 2014 that Argentina has reached the World Cup final, and for Messi, it is his last chance to own that trophy. It will be Argentina’s sixth appearance in a World Cup final, tied for third with Italy, but they haven’t won since 1986.
There was no penalty shootout to move on. Instead, Argentina made it to the final and Messi was a big part of it.
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In the 34th minute, Argentina received a penalty kick following a foul by Croatia in their own 18-yard box. Of course, Messi was the one who took it.
Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic guessed the right path, diving to his left. But Messi’s goal from the penalty spot was too good. He buried it in the top right corner and put Argentina up 1-0 in the first half.
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But Argentina had not finished scoring. Julián Álvarez scored the first of two goals in the 39th minute after a cross from Croatia and a quick exit from the blue and whites. Álvarez scored it on the pitch, battling the Croatian defenders and getting past Livakovic to have a substantial lead going into the locker room.
However, as we have seen in this World Cup, Croatia never gives up without a fight. Argentina had to maintain their form in the second half and two goals might not have been enough.
Messi got down to work again.
No, he didn’t find the back of the net, but his fantastic effort to run down the right side, evading Croatian pressure and finally finding Álvarez just in front of the net for an easy touch on goal was a thing of beauty at 69. minute.
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That third goal almost sealed the victory for Argentina. Croatia took 12 shots at the net, but only two were on target for Emiliano Martínez to save.
As the Lusail Stadium in Qatar sang after Argentina’s victory, all eyes will be on Messi as he awaits his next opponent with his team.
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Argentina will face the winner of France, the 2018 World Cup champions, and Morocco on Sunday at 10 am ET. France and Morocco will battle on Wednesday at 2 pm ET.