- Argentina thrashed Croatia 3-0 in first semifinal of FIFA World Cup.
- Argentina will face winners of second semifinal on Sunday.
- Julian Alvarez scored two goals and Messi netted one on a penalty.
Two goals by swashbuckling striker Julian Alvarez and a Lionel Messi penalty gave Argentina a 3-0 victory over 2018 runners-up Croatia in the first World Cup semi-final on Tuesday to set up a showpiece meeting with France or Morocco on Sunday.
The two-times world champions, backed by a huge majority of the crowd at the Lusail Stadium, produced their best display of the tournament to ensure they will meet the winner’s of Wednesday’s semi-final clash between holders France and Morocco in Sunday’s final.
Messi, 35, who suffered defeat to Germany in the 2014 final, is desperate to crown his extraordinary career by winning his first World Cup and bringing Argentina a third title to add to those won in 1978 and 1986.
And after getting his team on the way to victory with a perfectly struck first-half penalty he made sure of the win by brilliantly creating the third goal.
Croatia, runners-up in Russia four years ago, paid the price for some untypically poor defending as they went out in the last four for the second time after their 1998 loss to France in their maiden tournament.
It was not until the 25th minute when the game showed signs of life with a low pot shot from outside the box by Enzo Fernandez but Croatia keeper Dominik Livakovic did well to get across and keep it out.
It was a tight affair but then a simple lofted ball over the top from Fernandez caught out the Croatian defence, Alvarez latched on to it, knocking the ball past the advancing Livakovic who collided with the striker and Italian referee Daniele Orsato pointed to the spot.