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Messi 33' (p),Julián Álvarez 38', 68'
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Argentina vs Croatia summary: Messi penalty and assist, score, goals, highlights | Qatar World Cup 2022

Update:
Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Semi Final - Argentina v Croatia - Lusail Stadium, Lusail, Qatar - December 13, 2022 Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates their third goal scored by Julian Alvarez REUTERS/Molly Darlington

Argentina vs Croatia: as it happened

France vs Morocco live online: score, stats & updates | Qatar World Cup 2022

It's now Wednesday 14 December and in case you have stumbled across this older feed, allow us to redirect you to the second semi-final of the 2022 World Cup, France vs Morocco to find out who will play Argentina in the showpiece final. 

Joe is the man in place with our live coverage to take you through all the build up ahead of the game, bringing you team news and various insights into the two sides.

And then from kick off he will carry you all the way to when the final whistle blows in Qatar. You'll not want to miss out!

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Messi: “The final is my last game in a World Cup”

Messi has confirmed that Sunday's final, against Morocco or France, will be his last game ever at a World Cup. 

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Signing off...

OK, that's all from me (Joe) today! 

Thank you very, very much for following the AS USA coverage of the first of the two World Cup 2022 semi-finals.

We'll have more of the same tomorrow, with France    vs   ​​​​​​​Morocco! (that rhymes).

Argentina    3-0    Croatia

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All the info for France vs Morocco:

You thought today was enough? Well we've got more tomorrow, oh yes!

All the football, all the time. 

It's... France   vs   ​​​​​​​Morocco!

Here is literallyeverythingyou could possibly want to knowabout that game, which you'll be able to follow right here on AS USA.

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Messi vs Maradona: who was better in the World Cup?

So, Messi did lots of lovely footballing tonight, but has he reached the heights of Maradona?

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The bond between the team and the fans is something special

Lionel Scaloni came out 40 minutes after the match to thank the fans at the Lusail Stadium - and even do a little bit of dancing with them!

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Great football minds recognise each other.

Di María was Modric's teammate at Real Madrid for 2 seasons; the Croatian played against Messi for almost a decade!

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Did you guess right?

Of course you did! Who else could it be?

MVP number 4 of 6 matches for the little Argentinian...

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Any guesses who got MVP?

There's only one person, isn't there...

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A moment of appreciation for Luka Modric

He had a great game tonight. And a sad Modric is never something we want to see. 

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The coincidences that have Argentina fans dreaming of 2022 World Cup glory

We've seen some pretty strange similarities between this World Cup and past success, but what are they? 

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So, Messi makes it to another World Cup final - but how many has he featured in? What is his record? And what is Argentina's World Cup final record?

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Sofascore analysis

Here's how the boffins saw the game. 

A 7.2 for Modric, he had a great game despite not being able to find a way through.

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Croatia go out with their head held high

And especially Livakovic - what a tournament he has had!   ​​​​​​​

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Nicolás Tagliafico post-match comments:

It felt like there were more Argentinians here than in Argentina! Our fans are crazy.

We are giving everything. Whatever happens, this team is going to do everything.

When a team is united, the players can change but everyone pulls in the same direction. We are going to try acheive the dream.

Nicolás Tagliafico, Argentina

Nicolás Otamendi post-match comments:

We are 26 warriors who are all prepared to fight for the people. 

We are a strong group, that's important. We were excited to get to the final. Now we have to try our best to achieve the objective. 

NIcolás Otamendi, Argentina

Rodrigo De Paul post-match comments:

I still can't believe it. We've worked so hard to get here. I think we are deserving of this. 

We had a lot of faith, we came into the World Cup as champions of the Copa América. This team showed what it's capable of. 

Thank you to everyone for all the support. I hope the whole country is enjoying this, we are going to feel it from here. 

Rodrigo De Paul, Argentina

Julián Álvarez post-match comments:

I'm happy, we deserved this. We are in the final and it's what we wanted. Now it's time to rest and try to have a good game on Sunday.

My family must be going crazy right now, just like everyone else, I bet. We'll try to go for everything. 

Julián Álvarez, Argentina

Lionel Messi post-match comments:

I feel a lot of things right now, it's very emotional to see all this. To see all the people, all the family during the World Cup was something incredible. We are going for the final game, which is what we wanted.

I don't know if it is my best World Cup or not. It's been a long time for me to enjoy it like this. We were confident that this group could pull off this achievement. We know what we are and we ask the people to believe in us.

Argentina is, again, in a World Cup final - time to enjoy it!

We've been through tough moments, other really good ones. Today we've experienced something spectacular. I'm enjoying myself with all the people, and all the Argentinians that are in our country. I bet it's crazy right now!

Lionel Messi, Argentina

Another final for Argentina

Argentina into yet another World Cup final, this will be their sixth.

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Lionel Messi comments coming up...

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Sofascore, you're missing something!

'xND: Expected number of defenders turned inside out' - how does it sound?

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That was a terrific performance from Argentina, who are in tears on the pitch. Croatia battled well but did not have enough firepower up front to compete with the Argentinian talent on show tonight. 

Julián Álvarez was immense throughout, constantly making dangerous movements to give his teammates - Messi in particular - more time and space on and off the ball. 

The first goal came from fantastic movement and quick thinking from the Manchester City man, the same with the second, where he didn't give up and rightly claimed his goal. 

The third goal, although finished by Álvarez, was a work of art from Lionel Messi, who made Gvardiol - many people's choice for defender of the tournament - look like a complete novice.

Messi twisted and turned and squirmed his way around, under, over and through Gvardiol all at the same time, dematerialising his physical form and appearing on the other side in a feat of physics that scientists from this century are surely not familiar with. 

Argentina look scarily good; their evolution into the final stage is complete and either France or Morocco are going to have to have the performance to mark a generation if they want to beat this side. 

  3-0  ​​​​​​​

 

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90+5

ARGENTINA ARE THROUGH TO THE QATAR WORLD CUP FINAL.

  3-0  ​​​​​​​

​​​​​​​What a performance from La Albiceleste! 

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90+5

Argentina counter attack with Foyth down the right... 

Won back by Croatia.

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90+5

We are into the last minute of the game. 

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90+4

A shot from Vlasic flies high and wide. The Argentina fans continue to fill the bowl stadium with a combination of blue and white flags and amazing noise. 

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90+3

Tagliafico heads away a cross from the left. Corner to Croatia.

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90+1

Martínez collects a floated cross from deep...

The Argentina players on the bench have now lined the pitch, singing and dancing with the fans, waiting to come on at the final whistle.

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90

5 minutes added on.

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90

Into the final minute of normal time...

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89

Majer hits a bouncing ball from distance and Martínez gets down to stop it from awkwardly bobbling in.

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88

Croatia still keep trying to push, a bit like opening the fridge again and again even though you know there's nothing in...

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86

Foyth and Ángel Correa ON 

Molina and MacAllister OFF

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85

Corner for Croatia.

CLOSE! Majer whipped in the ball and Lovren almost met the flick-on...

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84

Dybala almost runs through ten million Croatia defenders to set himself up with a one-on-one but gets the ball peeled off his boots at the last moment. 

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83

MAC ALLISTER COMES CLOSE!

He meets a chipped ball over the top from Dybala but blasts his shot wide.

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81

Luka Modric comes off. What a sensational player. He tried everything tonight.

Replaced by Majer.

 

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81

Argentina are sitting in a 5-2-2-Messi and are soaking up everything that is being thrown at them. 

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80

Modric - yes, Modric - misplaces a pass. You don't see that very often. 

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78

Orsic with a nice bit of footwork on the left but he bends a shot high and wide. Croatia look understandably deflated...

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77

Argentina are now dominating all over the pitch. De Paul wins back possession and starts off a sequence of one-touch passing between 5 players. Exquisite play. 

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76

Perisic hits a frustratedshot from distance. 

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75

The stadium has erupted into song... blue and white flags are floating around every corner.

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75

Fifteen minutes to go...

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74

DePaul off for Palacios

Álvarez off​​​​​​​ for Dybala

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73

Perisic tries a shot from distance. Saved by Dibu Martínez.

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Ok, let me try and explain that!

Messi gets the ball about 40 yards from goal on the right wing, with Gvardiol touch tight, marking him well.

The forward runs down the wing and stops inside the box. He turns right, then left, then right again, turning Gvardiol's socks and shorts inside out, spinning his mask around his face onto the back of his head, before breaking away down the byline and setting up Julián Álvarez for a tap-in. 

​​​​​​​An absolutely crazy moment of football, one of the best pieces of skill I have ever seen.

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MESSI MAGIC AGAIN

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69

WHAAAAAAAATT AA GGOOOOAAAAALLLLLLLLL AARGENTINAAAAAAAA

GOLAZO GOLAZO GOLAZOOOOOO

3-0!!

​​​​​​​ÁLVAREZ!

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68

Romero booked for a foul on Petkovic.

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67

Argentina are happy to sit their defenders on the edge of the box and wait for Croatia to make a mistake; it's a plan that is working nicely now they have an extra centre-back on the field.

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65

Fantastic recovery from Tagliafico as Croatia work the ball nicely from left to right. Argentina counter but that guy, Luka Modric, does amazingly well to win a foul and take the danger out of the attack. 

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63

Juranovic goes on an inspired run down the right wing, absolutely blasting forward like he has fireworks on his, erm, feet.

I think his feet were working quicker than his eyes because Tagliafico made it look very easy to stand in his way and steal the ball.

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62

CHANCE FOR CROATIA!!!

Modric floated a cross in and Lovren got on the end of the ball, but Emi Martínez did too and managed to punch it away.

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61

Lisandro Martínez on for Leandro Paredes.

3 central defenders now for Argentina.

Paredes fouls Modric on the left wing. Free kick for the Croatians.

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60

Modric is absolutely everywhere this half. He is the furthest player back to start the play and then appears in the middle of the pitch to receive before popping up on the wing to try and find a gap out wide.

I can't find him when he's not on the ball, and neither can the Argentinians. 

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58

HUGE SAVE FROM LIVAKOVIC!

​​​​​​​Messi shoots from the left side of goal but the goalkeeper gets down well to save! 

​​​​​​​It was a fantastic one-two between Messi and Enzo on the edge of the box to allow the PSG attacker to find an inch of space, as he does.
​​

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57

Some very scary possession now that Argentina have stepped up and remembered they still have over half an hour of football to play. They're pinging it round the edge of the box...

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55

CHANCE FOR ARGENTINA!

Álvarez receives on the counter and almost plays in Enzo from the left, but Gvardiol cuts it out inside the box. 

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54

Croatia are having a lot of the ball but look like they don't want to play forward, like there's a forcefield that's stopping them from moving towards goal. It's quite strange. Argentina are being very passive and are allowing them to have possession.

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52

Argentina look just a bit wobbly but luckily for them, so do Croatia, who allow a lot of half chances to progress quickly to fade into nothing. Modric is now annoyed, which is not nice. Nobody likes a sad Modric.

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51

Enzo starts a counter attack for Argentina but it's well cut out by Vlasic, who is all better now. 

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50

Petkovic on for Brozovic

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50

Vlasic down after a foul from Tagliafico, who does his best 'I have no idea what happened' face. 

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49

Paredes hits a long range shot after nice work from Messi and Mac Allister on the edge of the box. Saved easily by Livakovic.

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48

Martínez collect the cross from Modric.

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46

Free kick for Croatia on the right side after a foul from Otamendi.

Messi is still fiddling with his hamstring...

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46

Sosa and Pasalic O​​​​​​​FF

Orsic and Vl​​​​​​​asic ON

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46

OK, we're ready to go for the second half: here we go!

Argentina kick us off from right to left. 

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And a word on Julián Álvarez, who started the World Cup on the bench. He won the penalty and scored one of the 2022 World Cup's best goals - what a player! 

  ​​​​​​​

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And with that goal, Messi makes it record number two for the night:

He has not only equalled Lothar Matthaus' World Cup appearance record, but now he is Argentina's top scorer in World Cup history (11 goals).

​​​​​​​Oh, and he's top of the scoring charts at this World Cup.

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News coming through that Messi was feeling his hamstring in the lead up to the penalty... let's see what happens in the second half.

Get those candles lit, people!

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Here's how Sofascore saw the game...

Croatia started well, but Argentina worked their way into the game.

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45+4

And that's all for now!

HT: Argentina    2-0   ​​​​​​Croatia.

​​​​​​​As it stands, Argentina are through to the World Cup Final.

​​​​​​​Well, blink and you miss it. 

Croatia started off in excellent fashion, controlling the possession in the wide areas thanks to their rotating midfield which was pulling the strings and pulling Argentina all over the place. La Albiceleste couldn't touch the ball and Croatia were creeping closer and closer towards goal, looking increasingly more comfortable as the game went on. 

And then, in an instant, everything changed. A ball over the top saw Julián Álvarez beat Lovren for pace and patch onto it; Livakovic had no choice but to try and stop him but took out the attacker in the process and Messi duly converted the penalty. 1-0.

The second goal came 5 minutes later; a quick counter-attack from Argentina ended in Álvarez somehow managing to keep the ball after calamitous Croatian defending saw it hit 2 players before the Man City striker tapped it past Livakovic to double the lead for the South Americans and make them heavy favourites to get to the final. 2-0.

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45+4

Into the last minute of the half. Croatia look shellshocked; Argentina look fired up.

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45+3

Kramaric skips past De Paul and spins Paredes round twice.

He plays the ball out to Sosa but the left-back's cross is high and flies out of play. 

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45+2

Croatia are now the ones struggling to hold the ball as Messi spins left then right in the centre of the pitch, twisting poor Gvardiol around like he's lost in a house of mirrors.

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45

4 minutes to be added.

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45

Modric shoots from the edge of the box, blocked by Otamendi. 

Emi Martínez then gets down well to stop a chance from Pasalic. 

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45

Álvarez chases down Livakovic and almost gets there before the goalkeeper clears the ball. Nerves all round for the European side. 

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44

Croatia need the half-time whistle to go, Argentina can smell blood. 

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43

Now Messi's corner from the right almost swings in!

Another save from the goalkeeper!

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42

WHAT A SAVE FROM LIVAKOVIC!!!!

THE HEADER WAS GOING IN FROM MAC ALLISTER

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42

Corner for Argentina; De Paul's shot was deflected by Gvardiol.

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41

Argentina look quite scary now...

De Paul with a shot from the edge of the box that bounces wide. 

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39

A PERFECT COUNTER FROM THE CORNER!

Álvarez runs all the way down the pitch with the ball, right into the middle of the Croatian defence. He has a clear pass to De Paul on the left but instead goes alone, twisting through the defenders.

The ball bounces off both of the Croatians that are inside the box but it falls to the Manchester City man who pokes it home to make it 2-0.

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GOOOOOOAAAALLLLLLLL ARGENTIIIINNNNAAAAAAAAA

​​​​​​​JULIÁN ÁLVAREZ!!!!! 2-0!!!

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39

Brozovic's cross is cleared, Argentina counter attack

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37

Croatia again with the ball; Argentina won't mind, given the situation.

Corner for the European side.

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37

Messi tries to find space for himself behind Sosa but the play is well cut out by the Croatia defence.

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35

Croatia had played absolutely impeccably until that lapse in concentration punished them. 

But, if we've learnt anything from this World Cup, we cannot write them off just yet...

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35

Back underway.

  1-0  ​​​​​​​

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BOOM! There was no stopping that!!!

Top right corner! It nearly ripped the net!

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34

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLL

MESSI PUTS ARGENTINA ONE STEP CLOSER TO THE WORLD CUP FINAL!!!!!!

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32

And just like that, this game has turned on its head...

Messi to take. Obviously. 

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PENALTY FOR ARGENTINA!!!

​​​​​​​Livakovic brought down Álvarez after a ball was played perfectly over the top of the Croatian defence!

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31

The good work from the Croatia team ends in a shot from Perisic on the left side, who tries to chip it over the goalkeeper. Goal kick given, although it looked as though it came off De Paul...

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30

Croatia with the ball again, playing comfortably around the back, despite Argentina's attempt to press them. 

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29

I've just seen a replay of that Enzo shot from earlier and I didn't give him credit for how well he placed the ball: it was curling in. Livakovic made the save look so casual he tricked me into thinking it wasn't going in!

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28

Modric heads away a cross from the resulting counter attack. Danger averted. 

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26

Kovacic! Beatiful! He robs Messi of the ball and then spins around it, making De Paul look silly as he fails to tackle him. Kramaric is fouled.

Free kick for Croatia on the right... cleared away.

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25

The first shot of the game comes from Argentina: Enzo fires towards goal from range but Livakovic saves easily. 

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24

Argentina with a bit more of the ball at the back, looking for ways through to go. Croatia are happy to sit and watch them.

A nice pass from De Paul finds Tagliafico but his cross flies over everyone.

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23

Messi picks up the ball on the edge of the box after a poor clearance but the ball goes out for a goal kick. Better from the South American side. 

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22

Some possession for Argentina now. 

Messi gets a return pass from De Paul and tries to look for Mac Allister in the left halfspace, but the ball is cut out. 

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21

Modric is doing a great job of dropping into the full-back spaces, allowing them to push forward and create overloads in wide areas where Croatia can progress.

That way, they're avoiding Argentina's tightly packed midfield that Scaloni has chosen for the game. 

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19

I'd try to explain Argentina's on-ball plan to you but they've had so little of the ball that I honestly can't see what they want to do. Twenty minutes gone and they haven't had anything.

Kovacic takes the ball and runs 20 yards forward into an Argentinian defensive wall, earning a free-kick. 

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17

Croatia almost break right through the Argentinian lines with a few crisp, direct passes. They look very dangerous so far and whatever Argentina's plan is, it's not clicking just yet.

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16

Some delightful link-up play between Modric and Pasalic ends in the European side getting a corner. That was beautiful interplay on the right wing. 

The corner comes to nothing; Lovren heads over.

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15

Over 60%possessionforCroatia so far... 

  ​​​​​​​

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14

Messi told to get up by referee Orsato after he is seemingly brought down on the edge of the box. He looks confused and the fans, who are now booing loudly, look angry. 

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13

So far, it's been allCroatia with the ball. Argentina haven't done much at all...

​​​​​​​Modric fouls Mac Allister to stop a counter attack.

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11

Enzo has been given the unenviable task of marking Luka Modric. The Croatian midfielder has already tried to avoid his presence with a few nice touches and passes round the corner to his teammates. That's shaping up to be a nice battle. 

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10

Bit of a scare as a long throw is launched into Argentina's box from the left. Emi Martínez gets a big hand to it to clear.

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10

Great work from Cuti Romero to win the ball back from Sosa; Brozovic had opened the play well to Gvardiol who tried to feed the left-back in an advanced area. 

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8

Bit of a mix up between Kovacic and Gvardiol, who both decided to go for the same ball before both deciding to leave it for each other. De Paul nipped in and took it away. 

Luckily, his touch was heavy and Croatia quickly recovered possession again.

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6

Croatia are pressed all the way back to their own goal again, but they manage to pass around it and work the ball out from the left side. They looked very calm there. 

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5

Quite a tense opening few minutes; both sides are cautiously smelling each other, like two wary dogs that meet for the first time. 

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4

Tagliafico makes a great run down the left side and a long ball nearly finds him inside the box. Livakovic read it well to collect with ease.

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2

Nahuel Molina gets down the right and hoofs in a cross but nobody followed him and it flies out of the other side of the pitch. Sosa covered well. 

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2

Mac Allister steals the ball from a sloppy Lovren pass out from the back and the South American side get their first touches of the game.

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1

Argentina press Croatia right away, all the way back to Livakovic.

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1

And we're off! The first World Cup semi-final is underway!

Croatia are playing from right to left. They kick us off.

    ​​​​​​​ 

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The lineups for each side:

  ​​​​​​​ XI: Martínez; Molina, Otamendi, Romero, Tagliafico; Enzo, Mac Allister, Paredes, De Paul; Messi, Álvarez

   ​​​​​​​XI: Livakovic; Juranovic, Lovren, Gvardiol, Sosa; Kovacic, Modric, Brozovic; Perisic, Kramaric, Pasalic

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The players are now out of the tunnel...

Time for the national anthems!

Argentina   ​​​​​​are up first, and it sounds absolutely amazing, it sounded like the whole stadium was singing along. 

Croatia's   was very nice, a lot of emotions from everyone.

​​​​​​​Niceties over, let's go!

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The players are in the tunnel!

The light show has started!

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Some familiar faces from the last meeting...

Argentina fans will be hoping the result is a lot different to the last time these two sides met at the Russia World Cup!

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Messi (Argentina)

Lionel Messi (Argentina) / JUAN MABROMATA / AFP

Messi has already broken a World Cup record tonight - and he hasn't even kicked a ball yet!

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The Al Hilm ball, the official ball of the Argentina vs Croatia semi-final

Al Hilm ball

The official match ball for the semi-finals and final at the World Cup 2022. Al Hilm means The Dream in Arabic. The ball has Connected Ball tech, to help the officials make offside decisions.

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Fifteen minutes to go!

The warmups are finishing and the players are getting ready to go inside for the final team talk!

    ​​​​​​​

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Messi's wife Antonella Roccuzzo and kids before Argentina vs Croatia game

Family Messi in the house

Leo Messi's wife Antonella Roccuzzo is in the house, along with the mini-Messis, Thiago, Mateo and Ciro. ​​​​​​​

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This is how things look on the outside...

I told you the atmosphere was pretty wild at the Lusail Stadium! And it's only going to get better - just under half an hour to go!

  ​​​​​​​

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Since Messi vs Modric is the story of the night...

Here is the head-to-head of the two players over their long and illustrious careers:

Games: 26

Messi wins: 9

Modric wins: 12

Draws: 5

​​​​​​​How will this change tonight?

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Argentina vs Croatia odds and prediction: who is the favourite to win the World Cup semi-final?

Ok, who've you got to win?

Argentina   or Croatia   ​​​​​​​? 

Check out what the odds are for the game and see if you agree with our prediction!

I have to admit, I am changing my mind every 5 minutes...
​​​

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Both squads are on the pitch...

Argentina have just come out onto the pitch at the Lusail Stadium to huge cheers! This is some atmosphere that is growing here! It's absolutely electric.

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Incredible from Modric, as usual

Surely he ages like the rest of us, right?

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AS World Cup Special reports:

Before the game kicks off, check out our special reports on Messi and Modric, the two stars of tonight's game

    ​​​​​​​

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Official confirmation of both lineups:

Here's how FIFA have organised the two teams into their respective formations; it looks like a standard 4-4-2 for Argentina and the expected 4-3-3 for Croatia.

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A strong tactical battle incoming!

Now we've seen the lineups from the two sides, it looks like it could be a very smart decision from Lionel Scaloni to fill up his midfield. We saw against the Netherlands that Argentina moved to a back 5 in order to nullify the Oranje's full-backs and it went down a treat.

Today, it looks like Paredes is there to fortify the midfield and make sure that the three Croatians don't run things like they love to do. Let's see if it works! 

  XI: Martínez; Molina, Otamendi, Romero, Tagliafico; Enzo, Mac Allister, Paredes, De Paul; Messi, Álvarez

  ​​​​​​​XI: Livakovic; Juranovic, Lovren, Gvardiol, Sosa; Kovacic, Modric, Brozovic; Perisic, Kramaric, Pasalic

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Yellow and red cards in the semi-final game: what are the sanctions for the World Cup final?

Since we saw about 300 bookings from Señor Mateu Lahoz in the Quarter-final match between the Netherlands and Argentina, let's recap on what changes regarding yellow and red card now that we're at the semi-final stage

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The players are in the Lusail Stadium!

Just over an hour to go... how are the nerves, Argentina fans?

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Here is how Sofascore rate the lineups:

Any surprises who leads the way in the scoring?

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Argentina Starting XI:

E Martínez

Molina - Romero - Otamendi - Tagliafico

De Paul - Enzo - Paredes - Mac Allister

Álvarez - Messi (c)

So, the rumours were true: Paredes starts in place of Ángel Di María.

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Croatia team news!

Modric captains Croatia in a midfield three along with Brozovic and Kovacic. 

​​​​​​​It also looks like Croatia will be in their beautiful dark blue away kit today. 

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Is there a third and fourth place match at the 2022 World Cup? Why is it important?

The loser of today's game will play on 17 December with the tomorrow's eliminated team to find out who ends up in 3rd and 4th place of the World Cup rankings

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Here are the Argentina fans again

Making a lot of noise! We might see a 'home team vs away team' difference in atmospheres tonight...

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Here are the last 5 results between the two teams:

1994: Croatia 0-0 Argentina (Friendly)

1998: Argentina 1-0 Croatia (World Cup)

2006: Croatia 3-2 Argentina (Friendly)

2014: Argentina 2-1 Croatia (Friendly)

2018: Argentina 0-3 Croatia (World Cup)

2 wins for each team and a draw that was over 25 years ago - it could not be more finely balanced! 

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The dressing room is ready!

Argentina are playing in their classic blue and white tonight... Oh my, I just got very excited!

Team news should be coming soon!

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Pep Guardiola has his World Cup favourite...

Do you agree with the Manchester City manager? 

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‘The spirit of Maradona is inspiring Messi’

"Lionel Messi is channelling the spirit of Diego Maradona to drive Argentina’s bid for World Cup glory" 

​​​​​​​Find out who thinks that, plus a fantastic head-to-head comparison between Maradona and Messi. ​​​

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Which of these La Liga legends will come out on top?

Messi vs Modric is the flavour of the day, as you would. Two giants of the game.

Not Weghorst vs Argentina giant, but you know what I mean. 

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Lionel Messi’s post match comments about referee Mateu Lahoz

Messi showed a side of his character against the Netherlands that we hadn't seen before. Here is what he had to say about the referee, Mateu Lahoz

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Joe's match preview, part 2.

Croatia, the only nation to (maybe) possess both gills and lungs, allowing them to receive the necessary amount of oxygen to play for 120 minutes, are in a World Cup semi-final for the second consecutive time.

Modric, Brozovic and Kovacic will run and run and run and run (repeat ad infinitum) so taking them out of the game will not be a job that can be completed in the first 80 minutes of the match.

Maybe they do not possess the star power of Argentina or France but their machine works perfectly: the players have known each other for years and they understand to perfection what the game requires to stay alive. Some people have called them the Terminator T-1000, but I haven't seen it, so I'll call them Ostriches, since they can run a marathon in 45 minutes. I reckon Luka Modric can do that, too. 

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Joe's semi-final preview

​​​​​​​Argentina have changed slowly throughout the tournament, acting as the perfect proof of Darwin's theory of evolution, mutating and adapting to the circumstances and environments they have been placed in.

Messi has been the poison bite, the crucial killer blow, but the spots and stripes on the shirt have not stayed constant at this World Cup and maybe that's how Argentina have managed to arrive where they are.

Today, they'll have to do it without their first-choice full-backs, Acuña and Montiel, but they'll find a way to cope, as they do. 

Ángel Di María is rumoured to be starting from the bench with Paredes starting in his place, so perhaps Scaloni is trying to go man for man against Croatia's engine room.   ​​​​​​​

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Argentina fans are already in fine voice!

It's going to be an epic atmosphere at the Lusail Stadium today!

When the teams arrive, we'll let you know. Just 2.5 hours to go!

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New 2022 World Cup final matchball unveiled

Yes! There's a new ball!

It's called the Al Hilm, which means... well, have a look and find out! 

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Argentina need to keep their calm today:

Against the Netherlands, there were 48 fouls in 120 minutes of play - a record so far at the World Cup 2022.

There were also an astonishing 18 bookings, including the technical staff: Walter Samuel and Lionel Scaloni.

Although only a red card would suspend someone for the final, the Argentina team need to keep cool heads throughout as Croatia are definitely able to take the match all the way...

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Argentina's pre-match press conference:

"The feelings are very positive. We are very happy to have reached one of our objectives, to be in the top four. We are working really hard to keep our objective. We are really happy but we are thinking about the upcoming match.”

“Yesterday, we analyzed how Croatia plays. We know that they have great players, with great quality in midfield. They are very good, they are also tall and they can play in the midfield, make crosses, get to the area. We will have to pay attention to the details but we will also have our own weapons and try to hurt them.

Messi has always been like this. For us, he is our captain, our leader. He is the one pushing us, motivating us. He gives us a special advantage on the pitch, we know we have Messi. And that is a great source of motivation."

"We are really happy to have him and with everyone’s support, we have our players, the coaching staff, we try to work in the same direction and to achieve our dreams and to do it with Messi by our side.”

Nicolás Tagliafico, Argentina defender

This is only the third time the two teams have met at a World Cup

Once at the France 1998 World Cup, where Argentina ran out 1-0 winners.

And then again in Russia 2018, as we mentioned, with Croatia coming out on top 0-3.

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Early team news rumours...

Word on the street and the internet is that Leandro Paredes is set to start in place of Ángel Di María, as Scaloni looks to solidify his side against Croatia's danger-men.

Let's see if the official confirmation confirms the rumours. 

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Player to watch: Croatia

Do we go for the obvious again? Is it Mr Modric? 

Yes, it is. Never pass up an opportunity to talk about Modric

The thing about Luka Modric is the simplicity with which he trots around the pitch, his hairband allowing just enough flop to be seen from the television so you can identify him perfectly every time. 

He almost tricks you into thinking, 'I could do that', since everything he does is completed with such nonchalance and a sense of confidence that it makes you believe that maybe the artwork in the museum isn't that good - until you actually have a pencil in front of you and the realisation of just how impossibly difficult it is swallows you like a humpback whale. 

You can't do what Modric does - and he does everything - at 37 years old. Defending, attacking, moving his team forward, slowing them down, scoring goals from anywhere... time will tell if his talent can take his team to the final.

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Player to watch: Argentina

Well, it's Lionel Messi, isn't it. 

Arguably the greatest player ever to slip on a pair of football boots, the forward has carried his team through muddy moments so far this tournament and will be looking to do it again to get his team to the final. 

What can we say that has not already been said about this man?

Just look at the pass to Molina in the last game: he allowed the rest of the world to rotate around when he stayed still, opening a gap without looking - he probably doesn't use his eyes like us mortals do - and fired in a perfectly weighted pass to set up the first goal of the game. 

He makes moments like that seem normal; statistics have been ruined by Messi as numbers have ceased to work to compare players, now coming with their own asterisk or sepearte note at the bottom (*Messi not included) because he tops everything except saves made. 

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Borna Sosa's pre-match comments:

“Of course. Now, everything is possible. We are very dangerous like we showed. If it comes to penalties, I think everybody will have in their heads that we’ve won many, many times.

“The last World Cup, we were second. We are coming with a new squad with 17 and 18-year-old players, and we are showing that we have a lot of quality in our country."

“We are really showing a lot of respect to the game and we are trying to give everything on the pitch.”

“We have only four million people and we are showing a lot of good results for many years. That’s why I’m proud of the whole nation because we are really living for this moment.

“This is our biggest strength as a team – to fight together. We do not have stars in the team who don’t want to run or defend.

 

Borna Sosa, Croatia defender

Do you remember this?

1 March 2006.

​​Messi scored his first goal for Argentina on the same day Luka Modric made his debut for Croatia. 16 years on, these two legends of the game are about to come head-to-head again. 

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Messi on the verge of (another) record:

Paolo Maldini is the player with the most World Cup minutes ever played, with 2,217 in total  

Lionel Messi, yeah that guy, has 2,104. That means that the Argentinian could break the record today if the game goes to extra-time  ​​​​​​​

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Croatia's incredible record.

Let’s take a moment to think at just how amazing the achievements of this Croatia side are. This is their second consecutive World Cup semi-final and they are 90 minutes (plus potential extra-time and penalties) away from making the final again. 

Croatia as we know it today, was formed in 1991 and has a population of just 4 million people, which is the same as Ireland, less than half of Chicago’s population and 10 million less than that of Buenos Aires.

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And you thought Messi was low on the list!

You did, didn't you? 

Well, he is, on that one. But Opta have for us a graphic showing the line-breaking passes into the penalty area, which is where the lovely, juicy goals happen.

Once again, we are reduced to saying that the boy is quite good at football.

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Modric vs Messi is an obvious theme of the day...

Especially when the two players are so key for their sides, just look at the statistics regarding line-breaking passes - Modric and Messi are (obviously) the two representatives for their countries. 

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Argentina vs Croatia, World Cup 2018

Argentina 0-3 Croatia, World Cup 2018 / IVAN ALVARADO / REUTERS

The last time the two sides met:

The most recent game between these two juggernauts was in the first round of the 2018 World Cup in Russia - can you remember?

It was a 0-3 win for Croatia, with goals from Rebic, Modric and Rakitic sentencing La Albiceleste to a shocking defeat.

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Here is how Sofascore rank Luka Modric in the biggest games

Safe to say he's the ideal teammate for the most important matches, both in the league and with his country. A true leader and a great captain. ​​​​​​​

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What awards and trophies have Lionel Messi and Luka Modric won?

So, we have got Messi vs Modric in a World Cup semi-final, but who comes out on top in terms of trophies won? 

Here is a run down of all the awards and prizes the two football legends have achieved so far in their illustrious careers. 

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Croatia pre-match comments:

We’re among the best teams in the world - that’s an extraordinary success for Croatia. It is a great thing to be among the four best teams at two World Cups in a row. But we want more. We’re playing a terrific Argentina team led by Lionel Messi. They’re highly motivated, and they’re under greater pressure than Croatia. I’m an optimist by nature - I trust my players. They’ve shown a high level of quality and strength of character. They would not have made it to the semi-finals without that.”

Zlatko Dalic, Croatia manager

Argentina pre-match comments:

“The previous game was played the way we had to play - for both teams. The Netherlands and Argentina. That’s football. In some games things can happen like this. There can be arguments, but that’s all. That’s why there’s a referee. We need to put an end to this idea of thinking Argentina behave like this.”

Lionel Scaloni, Argentina manager
Qatar World Cup 2022: Argentina vs Croatia - everything you need to know

And here isevery single thing I have just said about today’s game in a nice, neat summary from Will; any questions you have, the answer is probably in here. 

How do I get in touch to tell you how wrong you are?

Another great question! Well, you can comment on the live feed or tell me how wrong I am (stick to football) on Twitter, @English_AS or @j4brennan. Nice comments are also very welcome.

 

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Argentina vs Croatia odds and prediction: who is the favourite to win the World Cup semi-final?

Which team is most like to win?

Well, let me explain, using the bookmakers odds, on just how the people think this one is going to go. Even though many are backing Argentina and Messi to go all the way, only a very silly person would underestimate the resilience and sneaky firepower this Croatia side have.

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Argentina vs Croatia World Cup semifinals: date, times, and how to watch

Want to know how to watch the tie (as well as follow my every word on AS, of course)? Well, look no further, here’s how to watch the game. There’s also a prediction in there, if you fancy having a look at that, as well as some very interesting statistics on today’s game. 

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Here is the final four - who are you supporting?

Four teams, four incredible stories and just two more games before the final. 

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Some stats before the game...

Croatia are unbeaten in 11 matches; this is their third World Cup semi-final (1998, 2018, 2022) and are on the edge of being just the fourth European team ever to reach consecutive World Cup finals, after the Netherlands, Germany and Italy.

  

Argentina will play in their 6th World Cup semi-final, and the last time they progressed was in 2014, losing to Germany in the final with a Mario Götze goal in extra-time. The South American side have never lost a semi-final, but they have only won 1 of their last 7 meetings against European sides.

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Argentina vs Croatia possible starting lineups for the World Cup semi-final game

While we wait on the official confirmation, here is a piece from Kieran on just how the two teams might line up for this all-or-nothing game.

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Who is the referee for the Argentina vs Croatia semi-final game in World Cup 2022?

Who’s the ref?

Great question, thanks for asking. The man with the whistle today is Daniele Orsato, from Italy. 

He has overseen a game involving Argentina already during this tournament, La Albiceleste’s 2-0 win over Mexico in the Group Stages. 

As well as that, he also blew the whistle in the World Cup opening game between Qatar and Ecuador. Yeah, it feels like a lifetime away for me too. 

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How Croatia made it this far:

Croatia came second in Group F with 6 points, one behind surprise package and fellow semi-finalists Morocco. Scoreless draws against Morocco and Belgium (a game in which Lukakau could have scored 25 goals) came either side of a 4-1 battering of Canada in the first round, seeing them through to the Round of 16. 

It is only the Lungfish in the entire animal kingdom that possesses both gills and lungs, but I think Croatians must do too. How else could they find the oxygen to go all the way to penalties against Japan after a 1-1 draw and then do the same thing against tournament favourites Brazil?

The game against the South Americans and the team everyone had tipped for the trophy went 1-0 up thanks to a stunning Neymar goal that will now be forgotten and found one day at the bottom of the ocean. 

Petkovic strike in the 117th minute saw Modric’s men take it to spot kicks, where Marquinhos and Rodrygo both missed, sending Croatia through to their second consecutive World Cup semi-final. 

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How Argentina got to the semi-finals:

Argentina got over their opening day shock defeat to Saudi Arabia by batting aside Mexico before beating Poland to finish top of the group with 6 points. At this point, nobody was sure what to make of La Albiceleste, as moments of Messi magic were what had propped them up until the knockout rounds. 

The Round of 16 clash saw them take on Australia in a game that could have gone to a 2-2 draw right at the end, if it were not for a fantastic Dibu Martínez save that stopped the Australians from pulling off a potential World Cup shocker. 

Then came Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands side, who put up a last-minute fight to claw back from being 2-0 down, scoring what might be the goal of the tournament, Wout Weghorst the man giant with a masterclass in lumping it to the big man up top. 

It was penalties that separated the Oranje from Argentina in the end, and again Dibu Martínez was the star of the show, stopping the Netherlands’ first two strikes before Lautaro Martínez hit penalty number five which sent Scaloni’s side through to the final four. 

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Croatia team news:

Well, well, well. Croatia have a fully fit squad: every player is available and no, I have no idea how they do it either. Terminator 1000 stuff, these boys. ​​​​​​​
  

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Argentina team news:

Manager Lionel Scaloni is without his two starting fullbacks for this game: Gonzalo Montiel on the right and Marcos Acuña on the left. Both of them picked up a yellow card in the previous round against the Netherlands (oh what a crazy game that was) and as a result they are both suspended and will watch from the stands.

Added to that, rumours circled around the Argentina camp like angry crows which squawked forebodingly that Ángel Di María and Rodrigo De Paul had picked up slight injuries and would be on the ‘maybe’ list for the match. Luckily, as the clock has ticked on, it appears those scary squawks seem to have calmed down, so chances are we will see them both feature at some point, if not start the game.

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Goooood morning, afternoon or evening wherever you are and a very warm welcome to the AS USA live feed.

It’s Joe here and I’ll be taking you through the game today.

And oh my, what festive football fun we have: it is the first of the two World Cup semi-finals: Argentina   vs   ​​​​​​​Croatia at the Lusail Stadium! (11am PT / 2pm ET / 8pm CEST)

Let’s go!

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