Argentina scored a quickfire double in a five-minute span late in the first half to secure their spot in the World Cup final. Later, they would add a third goal to easily defeat Croatia 3-0. Lionel Messi scored from the penalty spot despite appearing to have hamstring problems in the first half of the game, and Julian Alvarez added insurance in the 39th minute. Dominik Lovankovic’s unusual error—clattering into Alvarez in the box—led to Messi’s penalty.
At halftime, Croatia made adjustments to try to counter, but Messi later set up Alvarez in the 69th minute to effectively end the game. Argentina’s tenacity ensured that they wouldn’t experience the same fate again after losing a 2-0 lead to the Netherlands before winning on penalties. Messi overtook Kylian Mbappe for first place in the Golden Boot standings with a goal and an assist, but this match is as much about Messi’s supporting cast as it is about his bid for the World Cup.
Alvarez, who is only 22 years old, had to wait his turn at Manchester City since Erdling Haaland was the line leader, but he made a big impression at the World Cup. Alvarez has already scored four goals for Argentina with his brace on Tuesday, but his work ethic has been just as crucial. Although his winning the penalty and pressing the defense won’t appear on the stat sheet, they were crucial to how Argentina earned victories.
Paulo Dybala was playing his first World Cup minutes before the final, therefore it was for a good cause that he was substituted just as he had a chance to complete a hat trick. This is a big boost for Argentina as they prepare to play either Morocco or France on Sunday after recovering from a hamstring issue with Roma.
Although Croatia played well in the tournament and should be proud of their effort, Messi’s quest for the World Cup has taken precedence today.