The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar was down to four remaining matches before a winner can be announced, but the first of two semifinals did not go as what many would have expected, with Argentina defeating their European opponent and the 2018 FIFA World Cup runner-up, Croatia. The 3-0 convincing victory allowed Argentina to progress into its sixth final in the history of the World Cup, a record that is only bettered by Brazil’s seven appearances and Germany’s eight appearances in the final.
Penalty or Not?
The breakthrough of the game came in the 34th minute when a spot kick was awarded after Manchester City’s Julián Álvarez ran into the Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livaković. The replay showed that the shot stopper stood on his ground and did not move forward at the opposing striker, but no video assistant referee (VAR) check was given and the penalty decision stood. Argentina captain Lionel Messi slotted home his fifth goal and his third from the spot of the tournament, equalling his Paris Saint-Germain teammate Kylian Mbappé’s record in the top scorer table. Furthermore, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner became Argentina’s highest-ever goal scorer in the World Cup with 11 goals.
When asked about the spot kick call, former Arsenal and Manchester United players Ian Wright and Roy Keane highlighted that it was not supposed to be a penalty and the decision sparked debates all over the internet, especially on Twitter.
— Duncan Castles (@DuncanCastles) December 13, 2022
Álvarez Stole the Headlines
Lionel Scaloni’s men were not going to be content with the 1-0 lead and quickly doubled their lead, courtesy of another Julián Álvarez contribution just five minutes later. The 22-year-old Calchín-born forward capitalised on Kockasti’s corner kick mistake and was released by Messi’s pass. He then broke away from the halfway line and ran towards the centre, before bagging his second World Cup goal.
Zlatko Dalić brought on several early changes in the second 45 minutes, but to no avail. 24 minutes after the restart, Argentina scored its third goal of the evening via another Messi-Álvarez connection. The Paris Saint-Germain forward turned back the hands of time to beat arguably one of the best defenders in the tournament, RB Leipzig’s Joško Gvardiol, and fed Álvarez for the second goal of his brace. The 3-0 scoreline remained until the end of the game.
Farewell for Modrić
La Albiceleste’s win meant Luka Modrić will not get his second chance at the elusive World Cup trophy. The Real Madrid star midfielder is 37 years old this year and was the 2018 FIFA World Cup Golden Ball winner, an award that is given to the best player in the World Cup tournament. But a chance of winning another World Cup medal is still on the cards as Kockasti will play the loser of the France-Morocco clash in the third place playoff.
Do you think France will make it two finals in a row or is Morocco to shine again in its incredible World Cup journey? We have some insights for you here.
(Photo Credits: Yahoo! Sports)