News Matches

Argentina v Croatia Live Commentary, 13/12/2022

FT
3 - 0
ARG
CRO
L. Messi (34 pen)
J. Álvarez (39)
J. Álvarez (69)
Lusail Iconic Stadium

Commentary

That's all from the first semi-final of Qatar 2022, so thank you for joining us and goodbye!
Not only has their iconic captain contributed to five goals in his last three games in the World Cup (three of his own, and two assists), Argentina have possibly found the perfect partner for Messi too. Today's semi-final will also be remembered for the impact of young Alvarez, who will now surely start in Sunday's final.
With what was ultimately a comfortable victory, Argentina sweep into the World Cup final by seizing a crucial two-goal advantage during a few short minutes in the first half. Some vintage Messi magic opened up Croatia again after the interval; allowing partner Alvarez to strike once more, and the Albiceleste are set to feature in another global final - only eight years after their last. Led by Modric - who was somewhat subdued today - the Croatians bow out after yet another spirited run to the latter stages, and they are consigned to contesting third place at the weekend.
90' + 5' FULL-TIME: ARGENTINA 3-0 CROATIA
90' + 4' Argentina now simply play keep-ball inside the Croatian half, and their job is already done. The Albiceleste hordes are heading to the final!
90' + 2' Tagliafico is forced to head the ball behind under pressure for a corner; offering Croatia perhaps one more chance to create a consolation goal. However, it ultimately comes to nothing as Vlasic leans back on a shot and sends it spiralling over.
90' Only five minutes of stoppage time now separates Argentina from the World Cup final. Their fans' chorus reaches a new crescendo, as the seconds tick down to the final whistle.
88' To their credit, Croatia play on with some verve, and Majer has a scudding low shot kept out by Martinez in the bottom-right corner, after being found by Kovacic.
J. Foyth
N. Molina
Argentina
86' Foyth replaces Molina at full-back for the final few minutes.
Á. Correa
A. Mac Allister
Argentina
86' Scaloni now introduces two more substitutes. First, Mac Allister makes way for Correa.
85' Majer's wickedly inswinging corner from the right is flicked on by Perisic at the near post, but Lovren just fails to make contact with the ball inside the six-yard box. Still no luck for Croatia.
83' CLOSE! After Dybala stands up a delicious ball from the left towards Mac Allister, who lurks on the edge of the box, the latter fires a volley narrowly wide of the right-hand post! Livakovic was well beaten!
L. Majer
L. Modrić
Croatia
81' Surely the end of an era: Modric is withdrawn for the final few minutes, and receives grateful applause from the outnumbered Croatian fans as he makes his way to the touchline. Majer replaces him.
79' Despite facing a lost cause, Croatia doggedly drive on in search of a goal. For all their tactical and personnel changes, though, they have rarely looked like breaking though.
77' Orsic cuts inside from the left flank; twice dropping his shoulder to shake off Romero before flashing a shot well wide of the far post. It's simply not Croatia's day.
75' Another improbable attempt from Perisic - this time from more than 30 yards out - sails high over the crossbar.
P. Dybala
J. Álvarez
Argentina
74' Two-goal hero Alvarez also makes way, as Scaloni offers Dybala a brief cameo alongside Messi.
E. Palacios
R. De Paul
Argentina
74' After another energetic shift in midfield, De Paul is offered a well-earned rest; Palacios comes on.
73' Rather desperately, Perisic shoots low through Argentina's defensive wall from 20 yards, allowing Martinez to gather the ball without any trouble in the bottom-left corner of his goal.
M. Livaja
A. Kramarić
Croatia
72' Another roll of the dice by Dalic sees Livaja replace Kramaric up front.
N. Otamendi
Yellow Card
Argentina
71' For a needless foul on Petkovic, Otamendi is booked.
L. Messi
Assist
Argentina
69' With a move reminiscent of his younger days, Messi eludes Gvardiol along the right flank, using all his dribbling skill and strength to reach the byline before cutting the ball back for goalscorer Alvarez.
J. Álvarez
Goal
Argentina
69' ALVAREZ AGAIN! 3-0! Argentina are heading to the World Cup final! Messi dazzles Gvardiol on the right, hanging determinedly onto the ball before weaving his way to the byline. The fleet-footed maestro defeats his man again for good measure, before slotting the ball into the path of Alvarez, who merely slots home from close range!
C. Romero
Yellow Card
Argentina
68' Follwing a crunching challenge from behind on Petkovic, near the halfway line, Romero is the latest player to see yellow.
66' Modric draws a foul from Alvarez and earns another free-kick, but Croatia's inspirational skipper still can't make any impact in the final third.
64' It's effectively five at the back for Argentina now, following Lisandro Martinez's arrival. Their approach to the final half-hour is clear.
62' Following the substitution, Lovren gets two attempts at guiding Modric's inswinging free-kick past Martinez with his head. Neither effort applies the finishing touch, and a combination of the goalkeeper and Otamendi ultimately sees the ball away to safety.
Lisandro Martínez
L. Paredes
Argentina
62' Argentina call upon some defensive reinforcement to defend their lead, as Lisandro Martinez replaces Paredes
60' After Modric is felled by a typically rugged Paredes challenge near the touchline, Petkovic is fouled and Croatia have a free-kick 25 yards out on the left.
58' SAVE! After dribbling past two men and exchanging quick passes with strike partner Alvarez, Messi evades Gvardiol to bundle a low shot towards the near post from 10 yards. Livakovic is just about equal to his attempt, though, and palms it away!
56' Only a crucial late intervention from Gvardiol denies Fernandez a chance to get a clear shot off from inside the box, as Croatia increasingly leave themselves exposed to the counter-attack. Of course, they've got no other choice.
54' Though certainly showing more urgency following their shake-up at half-time, Croatia simply cannot penetrate the steadfast albiceleste wall that lies before them. So far, even 'Plan B' isn't working.
52' More catching practice for Martinez ensues, as Vlasic's heavily deflected cross from the right loops up into the six-yard box, where the Argentina keeper plucks the ball out of the night air.
B. Petković
M. Brozović
Croatia
50' Another change of tack by Dalic sees midfield metronome Brozovic replaced by burly centre-forward Petkovic.
49' There's no problem for Livakovic in fielding a low shot from Paredes - taken from more than 20 yards out - which is straight down the goalkeeper's throat.
47' Martinez rises highest, almost uncontested, and comfortably claims a high cross into the box from a Modric free-kick on the right.
N. Vlašić
M. Pašalić
Croatia
46' Vlasic is also introduced after the break, and Pasalic does not return for the second half.
M. Oršić
B. Sosa
Croatia
46' In response to Croatia's predicament, Dalic makes a double switch at half-time. First, left-back Sosa makes way for a forward, Orsic.
46' Argentina kick off, and we are back under way at Lusail Stadium!
While Croatia have had some 62 per cent of possession so far, they have yet to force a single shot on target today. Surely, then, that must be Dalic's priority - how can his side present Argentina with a tougher defensive challenge after the interval?
Following a tightly-contested first half-hour, Argentina's breakthrough via the penalty spot opened up this semi-final, and as Croatia flooded forward in search of a quick response they were punished by Alvarez's goal on the counter. The young forward also won the penalty which led to Messi's opener, which saw the Albiceleste skipper become his nation's leading scorer in World Cup finals - and in emphatic style. The Croatians may feel hard done by, but now have a mountain to climb if they are to make a second successive World Cup final.
45' + 5' HALF-TIME: ARGENTINA 2-0 CROATIA
45' + 5' In the final act of the first half, Messi eludes three defenders to earn a free-kick deep inside Croatia's defensive third. There's no time to take it, though, as the whistle blows for half-time.
45' + 3' Perisic tries to send over a cross from high up on the left flank, but mishits it badly and sends the ball careering over the crossbar and on to the top of Martinez's net.
45' + 1' After Modric thumps a shot into Otamendi's face from the edge of the area, Juranovic sends a dangerous ball over from the right, which Martinez manages to shepherd away to safety.
44' Two quickfire strikes have changed this game entirely, as Livakovic punches the next corner clear under heavy pressure. Croatia are suddenly hanging on here, as the half-time whistle approaches.
42' SUPER STOP! Reacting sharply to parry away a goalbound header from Mac Allister, Livakovic earns partial redemption for his eariler error, as he keeps Croatia's deficit down to two! It was an excellent effort from the Brighton midfielder, following a corner, and his team-mates can barely believe it didn't sneak into the bottom corner!
41' De Paul drives in a shot from the edge of the box, which Gvardiol manages to block at close quarters, but on closer inspection it seems that it hit the defender's arm. However, he could do little about it and escapes censure from the referee, despite his opponent's pleas.
J. Álvarez
Goal
Argentina
39' ALVAREZ STRIKES! Argentina go 2-0 ahead, through the sheer persistence of Alvarez! Released by Messi on the halfway line, the young striker charges through the centre, leaving a trail of defenders in his wake, then benefits from a couple of fortunate deflections before poking the ball home from close range!
36' Croatia are clearly stung by their mistake, and having slipped a goal behind are now stepping up their passing rhhytm a notch. They've come from behind several times in the past two World Cups, so shouldn't be phased.
L. Messi
Penalty Goal
Argentina
34' ARGENTINA LEAD! Messi is the man for the big moment again, as the Argentina skipper steps up to the spot and sweeps his penalty into the top-right corner, evading the despairing dive of Livakovic! There was no stopping that! The South American champions lead 1-0 in this World Cup semi-final!
M. Kovačić
Yellow Card
Croatia
32' Due to dissent following the penalty award for Argentina, Kovacic joins his goalkeeper in being booked by the referee.
D. Livaković
Yellow Card
Croatia
32' For bringing down Alvarez with a clumsy challenge in the area, Livakovic receives a yellow card and - more importantly - concedes a penalty.
32' PENALTY FOR ARGENTINA! An error from penalty shootout hero Livakovic sees the Croatia goalkeeper clatter Alvarez in the area, as the Argentina striker strides on to a throughball! That's a penalty for Argentina!
31' This time, Perisic escapes Molina's attentions and manages to turn inside from the left side of the box before seeing a deflected shot loop up over the crossbar. However, the officials mistakenly award a goal-kick.
29' Martinez slides towards the left byline in order to avoid conceding a corner, and his intervention limits the damage to a Croatia throw-in, which ultimately comes to nothing.
27' Modric delivers a disappointing free-kick into the area from the right-centre of Argentina's half, then tracks back to play a crucial role in snuffing out the subsequent counter-attack. Once more, leading by example.
25' SAVE! Livakovic makes the first save of note in this semi-final, as Fernandez curls an optimistic shot towards the bottom-right corner from distance. The Croatian keeper leaps low to his left and palms the ball away!
24' There's no doubt that the Albiceleste are in the ascendancy now, as Tagliafico battles well to keep the ball alive on the left byline and turn the ball across the box - though to no avail - and Croatia find themselves penned in.
22' Having kept a disciplined defensive line so far, Croatia's back four are almost breached for the first time as Gvardiol's clearance gives the ball away to Messi inside the box, but the Argentina captain can't get a shot away.
19' Croatia's short spell of supremacy seems to be at an end - for now, at least - as Argentina manage to progress up the field a few yards. They've yet to cause any real attacking threat, though.
17' Being closed down by Argentina workhorse De Paul, an off-balance Sosa sends his cross towards the area from deep on the left way wide of the target - not his finest moment.
15' After Modric wriggles clear of two men, Juranovic has a cross from the right byline blocked behind; earning the first corner of the game. However, Lovren is then penalised for climbing on his marker, Romero, from the subsequent set-piece.
13' Claiming he was blocked off on the edge of the area by masked man Gvardiol, as he tries to latch on to Fernandez's throughball, Messi gesticulates towards the referee but is ignored.
11' The duel between Perisic and Molina has been well-fought so far, and the latter just about denies his Croatian counterpart the chance to cross from the left byline. This semi-final remains a fairly cagey affair at this point.
9' Croatia are now building their familiar passing rhythm, keeping the ball carefully near the halfway line as Argentina now take their turn to sit back in numbers.
7' In a sign that it could be another combative encounter today, both Romero and Pasalic put in crunching challenges which concede free-kicks.
5' Martinez claims a cross from the left flank with authority, then bowls the ball out and sets Argentina off on the counter-attack. However, they encounter a compact Croatian team, all sitting cautiously inside their own half.
3' After Molina beats Sosa in a foot race towards the right byline, the full-back whips a dangerous cross along the edge of the six-yard box, but no albiceleste shirts are able to make contact as the ball zips away to safety.
1' Croatia kick off, and we are under way in the World Cup semi-final at Lusail Stadium!
After rousing renditions of both national anthems, both teams are taking up their positions: kick-off is now just moments away!
Croatia name an unchanged team today, so Pasalic retains his place in support of Kramaric - the latter holding off the challenge of extra-time hero Petkovic to start. A much-lauded midfield triumvirate again features Brozovic, Kovacic and captain Modric.
Following a fiery quarter-final clash on Friday, Argentina full-backs Montiel and Acuna are both suspended today, and in the latter's absence Tagliafico comes in on the left side of a back four. Lionel Scaloni makes one more change to the XI which started his side's quarter-final win over the Netherlands, as Paredes replaces Lisandro Martinez, in order to combat Croatia's masterful midfield.
SUBS: Ivo Grbic, Ivica Ivusic, Martin Erlic, Mislav Orsic, Nikola Vlasic, Ante Budimir, Kristijan Jakic, Josip Sutalo, Josip Stanisic, Bruno Petkovic, Domagoj Vida, Borna Barisic, Lovro Majer, Marko Livaja, Luka Sucic.
CROATIA (4-3-3): Dominik Livakovic; Josip Juranovic, Josko Gvardiol, Dejan Lovren, Borna Sosa; Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic, Mateo Kovacic; Mario Pasalic, Andrej Kramaric, Ivan Perisic.
SUBS: Franco Armani, Geronimo Rulli, Lisandro Martinez, Angel Correa, Exequiel Palacios, Paulo Dybala, Juan Foyth, Thiago Almada, Guido Rodriguez, Angel Di Maria, German Pezzella, Lautaro Martinez.
ARGENTINA (4-4-2): Emiliano Martinez; Nahuel Molina, Cristian Romero, Nicolas Otamendi, Nicolas Tagliafico; Rodrigo de Paul, Leandro Paredes, Enzo Fernandez, Alexis Mac Allister; Lionel Messi, Julian Alvarez.
Four years after their opponents fell just short in Brazil, Croatia were losing finalists in 2018, and could now become only the fourth European nation to reach consecutive World Cup finals. Today marks their third meeting with Argentina in the competition, but the first in the latter stages; both have won one apiece. While Zlatko Dalic's side have not scored first in any of their last nine World Cup games, Croatian teams have never failed to find the net in their 10 knockout matches since independence. Furthermore, they have won all four of their previous penalty shootouts - this year knocking out Japan and Brazil by that means, in the last 16 and quarter-final respectively. The only nation to win more times on spot-kicks are, of course, Argentina.
Aiming to reach the World Cup final for a sixth time, Argentina approach today's match having never before been eliminated at this stage - most recently making the competition's grand finale in 2014. Though the Albiceleste have won just one of their last seven World Cup finals fixtures against European teams - beating Poland 2-0 in the group stages this year - they edged past the Netherlands in the quarter-finals on penalties, following an absorbing encounter featuring four goals and 18 yellow cards. After losing their opening game in Qatar to Saudi Arabia, the champions of South America recovered to win three successive matches, with captain Lionel Messi leading the way in terms of goals and assists.
Hello and welcome to live coverage of today's World Cup semi-final between Argentina and Croatia at Lusail Stadium!