Messi masterclass, Alvarez brace fires Argentina into World Cup final

Messi masterclass, Alvarez brace fires Argentina into World Cup final

Lionel Messi scored a penalty and provided a wonderful assist for Julian Alvarez, who bagged a brace, as Argentina beat Croatia 3-0 to advance to the World Cup final.

The PSG forward captained Argentina against the 2018 runners-up as they attempted to reach the World Cup final for a sixth time at Lusail Stadium.

Argentina beat Netherlands on penalties to set up a last-four encounter against Zlatko Dalic’s side, who also progressed from the quarter-finals with a shoot-out win as they saw off Brazil.

Croatia named the same side that started that game, while Argentina made two changes with Manchester United defender Lisandro Martinez replaced by Leandro Paredes as Lionel Scaloni reverted to a back four.

Nicolas Tagliafico also came into the starting XI to replace Marcos Acuna, who was suspended.

Argentina were awarded a penalty after the simplest of balls over the top of their defence picked out Julian Alvarez.

The Manchester City forward burst into the box and was clattered by Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic after getting his shot away.

Referee Daniele Orsato pointed to the spot, booking Livakovic for the challenge, with Messi making no mistake from the spot to put Argentina ahead.

Croatia assistant coach Mario Mandzukic was sent off for his protestations at the award of the spot-kick before things got even better for Argentina.

The lead was doubled by Alvarez, who collected the ball inside his own half and charged forward, benefitting from a couple of deflections and weak defending to coolly make it 2-0.

With Croatia rocked, Livakovic kept them in the contest with a fine stop from an Alexis Mac Allister effort three minutes before the break.

The tie was all but settled with 22 minutes remaining as Alvarez struck for a second time.

Initially flicking the ball onto Messi, Alvarez continued his run into the box and – after the skipper had brilliantly danced past Josko Gvardiol to create the chance – was on hand to make it 3-0.

More to follow…

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