Argentina faced off against Croatia in the first matchup of the World Cup semifinal. On possibly the last tournament of their respective superstar, both teams would be determined to give their best for a shot at the grand finale.
After a fiery battle against the Netherlands, when 17 cards were handed out by the referee, Argentina got short-handed, or should I say short-winged, with the suspensions of Marcos Acuna and Gonzalo Montiel due to yellow card accumulation. Meanwhile, Angel di Maria needed more time to be 100% ready for a starting spot.
On the other hand, Croatia survived their second consecutive 120-minute game and penalty shootouts after they shocked favorite Brazil. Most of their defensive units have played over 500 minutes in the competition. Compared with Argentina, their stamina and physical were in a worse state.
Argentina approached the game with some conservation and left the field for the opposition. Croatia took advantage and soared on the attack. But the Argentinian was solid on defense, combined with some out-of-pace decision-making from the likes of Kramaric, slowing down the attack. And when no significant chances were created, the Croatians had to pay the price. A fantastic longball sent Julian Alvarez into a one-on-one situation. Dominik Livakovic had to make up for the ground lost by his center-backs but eventually fouled the Manchester City striker. And from the spot, the man himself, Lionel Messi, cooly converted with a top-corner shot. And just minutes later, Julian Alvarez, from a seemingly harmless counter-attack, ran by three to four defenders to double the lead. That was another terrible play from one of the best defenses in the competition.
Croatian had to go all-in in the second half, but Argentina’s defensive line was unbreakable. And when much attacking didn’t pay off, Argentina taught them a lesson again. How many more times can we say this? But this one was a genius moment from Lionel Messi. He dribbled and circled past Josko Gvardiol, possibly the best defender in the World Cup, making him a shadow of who he was before sliding the ball in for Alvarez to complete his brace. What a moment created by Lionel Messi! Lusail erupted. The TV audience was in awe, same went the feelings of the Croatians. Love him or hate him, we just witnessed greatness unfolding in front of our eyes.
That third goal completely devastated Croatia. They dug themselves into a morass and were unable to escape. After eight years, Argentina is World Cup finals bound again. Let’s see if the results can be in their favor this time.
Thank you, Luka Modric and the Croatians!
This Croatia team that Zlatko Dalic brought to Qatar was regarded by many as one of the worst since their World Cup final appearance in Russia four years ago. But this team defined all the odds, advancing over Belgium, defeating a gritty Japan, and coming from behind to eliminate tournament-favorite Brazil. They played the most minutes out of any teams going into the semifinals but were running as enthusiastically as ever. What a team it was!
They couldn’t advance to the biggest stage this time, meaning Luka Modric wouldn’t be able to lift the prestigious World Cup trophy. At 37 years of age, he still displayed world-class footballing, running like a player in his 20s. Luka Modric, the brightest star of a legendary generation for Croatia, alongside the likes of Dejan Lovren or Ivan Perisic, would likely step down from international duty by the time the next World Cup arrives. We would like to send our gratitude and the deepest “Thank you!” to a legend of the tournament. Luka Magic!
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