All it took was a five minute stretch late in the first half for Argentina to score a quickfire double to book their place in the World Cup final. They’d later add a third for a comfortable 3-0 victory over Croatia. Despite seemingly having hamstring issues during the match first half of the match, Lionel Messi was able to score from the spot before Julian Alvarez scored an insurance goal in the 39th minute. Messi’s penalty came from a rare mistake from Dominik Lovankovic who clattered into Alvarez in the box.
Croatia made changes to try counter at halftime but Messi then set up Alvarez in the 69th to put the game firmly out of reach. After squandering a 2-0 lead to then Netherlands before winning in penalties, Argentina’s persistence made sure that they wouldn’t suffer the same fate again. With a goal and an assist, Messi has taken the lead in the Golden Boot standings from Kylian Mbappe but this game is as much about Messi’s supporting cast as it is about his pursuit for the World Cup.
Only 22, Alvarez has had to bide his time at Manchester City due to Erdling Haaland leading the line but he has burst onto the stage during this World Cup. With a brace Tuesday, Alvarez has now scored four goals for Argentina but his work rate has been just as important. Him winning the penalty and pressing defensively won’t show up on the stat sheet, but it’s so important to how Argentina have secured results.
He was taken out with a chance for a hat trick but it was for a good reason with Paulo Dybala playing his first minutes of the World Cup ahead of the final. Recovering from a hamstring injury with Roma, this is quite a boost for Argentina ahead of a matchup with either Morocco or France on Sunday.
Croatia have had a strong tournament and should be proud of their performance but on this day, Messi’s pursuit of a World Cup title has taken center stage.