Argentina into World Cup final with 3-0 win over Croatia

Lionel Messi celebrates Argentina's semifinal win with Leandro Paredes.

Lionel Messi celebrates Argentina's semifinal win with Leandro Paredes. Photo: Getty

Lionel Messi is back in the World Cup final with Argentina on his mission to win soccer’s biggest prize for the first time.

And, at 35, he could hardly be playing any better.

Messi converted a penalty and had a hand in the other two goals by Julian Alvarez, leading Argentina to a 3-0 win over Croatia on Tuesday (Wednesday AEDT) that set up a meeting with either France or Morocco in Sunday’s title match.

It will be Messi’s second World Cup final – Argentina lost the other one to Germany in 2014 – in what might be his last appearance at the tournament.

It could yet be the perfect way to go out for a player widely regarded as one of the game’s all-time best players.

Messi is thrilling his legion of fans along the way, with his swivel and driving run to set up the third goal for Alvarez in the 69th minute epitomising his confidence and swagger.

He is embracing the responsibility of leading Argentina to their third World Cup title, scoring in five of his six games in Qatar.

Croatia failed in its bid to reach a second straight World Cup final after conceding two goals in a five-minute span late in the first half, just when the team was looking comfortable at Doha’s Lusail Stadium.

There was a moment midway through the first half that must have struck fear into all Argentines, when Messi appeared to clutch his left hamstring and rub it.

Was Argentina’s superstar going to have to come off? No such luck for Croatia.

Messi was soon toying with his opponents in a way only he can. He put Argentina ahead by lifting his penalty into the top corner after Alvarez was taken out by Dominik Livakovic after clipping the ball past Croatia’s goalkeeper.

Alvarez poked home his first goal at the end of a surging run from halfway, starting with Messi’s short pass and added the third following more outrageous skill from his teammate.

Topics: Argentina
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