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Messi fires Argentina to World Cup final

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Lionel Messi (left) and Julian Alvarez celebrate
Lionel Messi (left) and Julian Alvarez celebrate

Lionel Messi gave himself one last shot at World Cup glory as he and Julian Alvarez scored for Argentina in a 3-0 win over Croatia at the Lusail Iconic Stadium, to reach the final in Doha, Qatar yesterday.

Messi fired into the top corner from the penalty spot (34) against the run of play to open the scoring after Man City striker Alvarez earned a debatable penalty following a collision with Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.With that strike, the 35-year-old surpassed Gabriel Batistuta to become Argentina’s top scorer at the World Cup finals on 11 goals.

Croatia collapsed after the opener and conceded another five minutes later from an Argentina counter-attack after comical defending as Alvarez doubled their lead (39) having carried the ball from his own half.

Messi took matters into his own hands to ensure the game was out of reach, producing a moment of magic down the right to beat Josko Gvardiol before putting it on a plate for Alvarez to score Argentina’s third.

Argentina last reached the World Cup final in 2014 in Brazil and were beaten by Germany but have not lifted the trophy since Diego Maradona led his nation to victory in Mexico in 1986.

Croatia bossed the opening half an hour and Messi was largely anonymous as he walked across the field at the Lusail Iconic Stadium, waiting for his team-mates to spring to life.

The game was turned on its head when Alvarez won a penalty just after the half-hour mark. Croatia were caught out at the back by a simple ball over the top from Argentina and Alvarez was brought down by Livakovic after he pushed the ball past the goalkeeper.

Messi stepped up to the spot, as he did against the Netherlands in the round before and gave Argentina the lead with an emphatic strike into the top corner.

Having looked so strong before, Croatia appeared to lose their heads and suffered another blow five minutes later as Alvarez rode two challenges in the area after carrying the ball from his own half before poking a composed finish beyond Livakovic to make it 2-0. (C.D)


Thursday, December 15, 2022 – 01:00

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