Messi magic sends Argentina through to World Cup final in Qatar

Wednesday, 14 December 2022 - 8:18

Argentina the South American powerhouse will play in the World Cup final after defeating Croatia 3-0.

It was the fifth time Argentina has played in a World Cup semifinal (defeating the USA in 1930, Belgium in 1986, Italy in 1990 and the Netherlands in 2014). And it is the sixth time it has advanced to a final. The last time Argentina won the World Cup was in 1986.

It was a cautious start to the match as both Argentina and Croatia played conservatively - not wanting to make an early mistake. But Argentina took control after a half hour and never looked back.

In the 32nd minute, Julián Álvarez went one-on-one with Croatian keeper Dominik Livaković who brought Álvarez down - winning a penalty kick. Argentina star Lionel Messi then stepped up to do what he seemingly always does. Calmly and coolly, he punched the ball high and to the right giving his side a 1-0 lead.

Álvarez wasn't done. In the 39th minute, he led a counterattack and dribbled all the way from midfield, sprinted through three Croatian defenders, and lofted the ball past Livaković to give Argentina a 2-0 lead at the half.

Livaković had shined in goal this tournament. But an unrelenting Argentina offense and some Croatian defensive lapses proved to be too much.

The beautiful tandem of Messi and Álvarez had one more sparkling moment against Croatia. In the 69th minute, Messi had a flash of unbelievable ballhandling against Croatia defender Joško Gvardiol on the right side of the goal. Messi then found Álvarez who powered it in for the 3-0 lead. Of Croatia's twelve shots on goal, only two were on target.

The Argentina captain is one win away from winning the World Cup trophy and cementing his status as the greatest to ever play the game. The one title that has eluded Messi, that sets him apart from so many of the greats who have come before him, is his for the taking on Dec. 18.

Early in the game against against Croatia, it seemed he might have pulled his hamstring, but all doubts were put to the side when he orchestrated his country to glory, first with a penalty smashed high into the right corner and then with a dazzling, trademark run against one of the tournament's best defenders, Josko Gvardiol, to set up Julian Alvarez for his second goal of the night.

And he broke records doing it: the oldest man to score five goals at a single World Cup and Argentina's top scorer at the World Cup. It's Messi's last dance, and we're all lucky to witness it. There will always be comparisons to Maradona, the magical left foot, the hand of God, the mazy runs. If Messi can win the World Cup, it will be difficult to argue with those comparisons.

Messi is delivering masterclass after masterclass in Qatar, while Argentina fans around the world celebrate being one step closer to glory.