World Cup – Croatia-Argentina cheat sheet: Eternity is only getting closer for Lionel Messi

The game: Argentina adapted to Croatia

We cannot blame Lionel Scaloni for not preparing for his meetings. For the third time in this World Cup, the Argentine coach has changed his system by switching to 4-4-2 with Leandro Paredes in particular in midfield. Result: where Croatia had dominated in this crucial area against Brazil, they were stifled against the Albiceleste. For the rest, it was not a top game despite the thinnings of Modric and Messi. But Scaloni’s troops had the advantage of having a defensive solidity, which the Croats lost in the worst of times. But where the match is played, it may be on the presence of a certain player.

The players: Messi is always more on a mission

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There was his goal against Getafe, his dive against Manuel Almunia, his header against Manchester United and so many others. But this Tuesday, Lionel Messi added a striking new image to his bloated collection. His goal from the penalty spot to open the scoring was overshadowed by this number in the 69th minute, against one of the best defenders in this World Cup: a run of more than 40 meters with incessant changes of support and a brilliant decisive pass to Julian Alvarez. On a mission and divinely good.

The other big guy is named Julian Alvarez, author of a double and a more than complete match. At 22, he is the perfect lieutenant for Pulga. On the Croatian side, on the other hand, it was the soup with the grimace behind it. Between Dejan Lovren’s misposition, the disastrous matches between Sosa and Juranovic and the penalty conceded by Livakovic, the defense sank. As for Guardiol, he will forever remember his reunion with Messi…

The X-Factor: The Argentine Penalty

All it took was a misalignment from Lovren to provide the first real chance of this game. Launched towards Livakovic, Alvarez attempted a little diving ball to deceive the Croatian goalkeeper. His gesture, too timid, was ineffective, the ball was stopped by Lovren. But the young striker hit the Croatian goalkeeper after his recovery. The shock is hard, but the ball was already somewhere else. Daniel Orsato still whistles the penalty kick. And launches Albiceleste towards his lecture.

Julián Alvarez before the contact on Livakovic

Credit: Getty Images

The statistics: 25, 11 and 2

Holy night for Messi. At the start of the match, Pulga equaled Löthar Matthaus’ record of matches played in the World Cup. To celebrate, he scored his 11th goal, surpassing Batistuta’s tally in the competition (11) and closing in on Pele’s tally. And as a bonus, he has qualified for his second World Cup final.

The tweet: he’s going back there

The picture that makes you sad

If Mondial keeps one legend, it loses another. Luka Modric, defeated in the semi-final, leaves the most beautiful stage.

Luka Modric in tears after elimination against Argentina

Credit: Getty Images

The Comment: Lionel Messi (Argentina) on Argentina’s struggle after the opening loss

What we did was difficult because every match was a final. We played five finals, we won five. Hopefully this will be the case for the next…

The question: Is this their destiny?

It is so big that it is finally beautiful. By announcing that this edition in Qatar would be his last World Cup, Lionel Messi had put too much pressure on his people. His last dance would therefore be his last chance. This Albiceleste was almost swallowed up by the weight of such a mission. And then the Mexican rocker changed the face of this team.

Since then, she has never stopped being miraculous, until this final flawless semi-final. Lionel Messi has something to do with it, of course. But Scaloni’s selection has also changed the face of this team. The Argentine world only started when Fernandez and Alvarez became essential pieces. He was also enhanced by the Argentine coach’s tactical intuition, able to adapt his system to the challenges on offer.

It is so big that it is finally beautiful. Lionel Messi’s dream is still alive. Even more than ever. The positive signals are multiplying around this Albiceleste. His fate, whatever happens, will be decided in Lusail. Against France or Morocco. But especially with eternity before them, before him. The ultimate challenge. Perhaps the most difficult of his entire career.

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