Messi and Alvarez dazzle but Modric is barely shaking

Lionel Messi celebrates - Reuters

Lionel Messi celebrates – Reuters

Lionel Messi will have the chance to crown his glittering career with a World Cup winners medal after opening the score with a magical spectacle that helped Argentina comprehensively beat Croatia and advance to Sunday’s final.

The 35-year-old is one of the greatest players to ever grace the field and will have his chance to win against France or Morocco at the Lusail Stadium in what appears to be his last match on the world stage.

Messi scored from the spot before Manchester City striker Julian Alvarez finished a fantastic solo run, then took advantage of the captain’s superb assist in their 3-0 semi-final win against Croatia.


Emiliano Martinez 6

Easiest nights for Martinez, who has previously been pivotal in his penalty-recovery prowess against the Netherlands.

Nahuel Molina 6

A spoiler rushed forward early, but his intermediate ball for Tagliafico was overtaken. Deal with all threats competently.

Cristian Romero 7

He got a stupid yellow card in the second half, but became the best defender of the Argentina tournament. The Tottenhem defender has never been under pressure.

Nicolas Otamendi 7

The biggest liquidation trader against the Netherlands that night will be happy to initiate the move that leads to Argentina’s second goal.

Nicolas Tagliafico 6

He barely broke a sweat while dealing with Palasic and easily matched Vlasic in the second half. Confident and comfortable.

Rodrigo DePaul 6

A few hits from the left in the first half and a good enough basket shot. However, overall a very good performance.

Enzo Fernandez 6

He had a good chance in the second half, but was unable to hook the ball under pressure. Otherwise a straight forward night.

Leandro Paredes 6

Argentina’s executor made few mistakes, playing such a deep role in the midfield that he sometimes filled in as an extra defender.

Alexis Mac Allister 8

The Brighton man was dying to get on the scorecard. He fired a volley in the second half and saved a fantastic header in the 43rd minute.

Lion Messi 8

He’s on his magical peak for Argentina’s third goal. He squashed his penalty with poison. He wins matches while being very economical while running.

Julian Alvarez 9

With nimble feet to get a high intermediate ball to win the penalty. His speed has constantly worried the Croats. He deserved your support.


Lisandro Martinez (in Parades, 61)
Croatia had little to do as they barely struggled in the second half.

Palacios (for De Paul, 74)
Dybala (at Alvarez, 75)


Dominik Livakovic 7

Two excellent saves, even more admirable after kneeling at the men as they knocked Alvarez down for the pen.

Josip Juranovic 5

Alvarez has to take the lion’s share of the blame as he can’t step in as he rushes for the second move.

Dejan Lovren 5

The veteran former Liverpool defender has always supported himself on the biggest stage but was burned by Alvarez for speed.

Josko Gvardiol 5

The Croatian masked man blocked several early attacks from Argentina, but made the mistake of failing to get close to Messi at least twice.

Borna Sosa 5

Energetic performance from Stuttgart wing-back, but left who fell on his back during a desperate interception for Alvarez goal.

Luke Modric 5

It was arguably his last big night in international football and it was a sweltering night. Cut an uncomfortable figure in Argentine gaming.

Marcelo Brozovic 4

Not his best show. He looked particularly light as he delivered the ball during a few clumsy fouls and a rare sure striker after 30 minutes.

Mateo Kovacic 5

The second coolest head of the Croatia team after Modric, but neither of them has a chance to set foot on the ball.

Mario Pasalic 4

It was rightfully taken at halftime after an anonymous video. The ex-Chelsea man, his muscles were beaten and his maneuvers were done.

Andrej Kramaric 5

The 1899 Hoffenheim striker barely touched the ball for 70 minutes. He ran the Croatia line, but had no service.

Ivan Perisic 5

He tried to chip Martinez and failed miserably. He was often the team’s most advanced player, but largely a peripheral figure.


Nikola Vlasic (for Palasic, 46) 6
An improvement on Palasic. He looked lively in the middle and moved Croatia three times with good passes.

Petkovic (replaces Brozovic, 50) 6
The immediate threat was a neat one-two trade-off but failed to find a neat finish that would boost Croatia’s hopes.

Orsic (replaces Sosa, 45) 6
Energy added in the last third but easily dispossessed three times.

Livaja (replacing Kramaric, 72)
Majer (open for Modric, 81)

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