Julian Alvarez’s brace and Lionel Messi’s penalty sent Argentina into a sixth World Cup Final, following a 3-0 semi-final win over Croatia at 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Lionel Messi fired Argentina ahead from the penalty spot in the 34th minute after Croatia’s goalkeeper, Dominik Livakovic had fouled Julian Alvarez.
Alvarez doubled Argentina’s lead just five minutes later with a stunning finish to a solo counter-attack run up the pitch, before he added his second goal in the 69th minute from Messi’s short pullback pass to complete a comfortable victory against the 2018 runners-up.
Argentina will now face the winner of France’s semi-final against Morocco in the Grand Final on Sunday 18 December, which will be held at Lusail Iconic Stadium in a 6pm AST (3pm UK Time) kick-off.
Croatia meanwhile will meet either France or Morocco in the Third-Place Play-Off on Saturday 17 December at 6pm AST (3pm UK Time), at Khalifa International Stadium.
A cagey opening 15 minutes saw no clear-cut chances at both ends untill Argentina’s Nicolas Tagliafico blocked Josip Juranovic’s 16th minute cross, from which Dejan Lovren headed over from the corner-kick.
Argentina had to wait until the 25th minute before their first chance as Alvarez saw a shot denied by Livakovic, after having fired towards the bottom-right corner from Alexis Mac Allister’s lay-off pass.
Croatia six minutes later went close to taking the lead as Ivan Perisic cut in from the left, yet the Croatian chipped his shot just too high beyond the goal.
Up at the other end less than a minute later, Livakovic clattered into Alvarez whilst trying to block his shot and referee, Daniele Orsato ruled the incident as a foul and awarded a penalty to Argentina.
Messi stepped up and calmly dispatched the spot-kick into the top-right corner of the net to put the two-time champions on course for a sixth World Cup Final.
Those dreams soon began to become visually clear in the 39th minute as Alvarez intercepted Marcelo Brozovic’s cross and sprinted up the pitch, during which he evaded Croatia’s defence and calmly smashed into the net beyond Livakovic’s reach.
Croatia’s dreams of a second consecutive World Cup were almost put beyond reach just three minutes later, as Mac Allister saw his 42nd minute header from a corner denied by Livakovic’s outstretched block.
At half-time, Croatia made two changes as Borna Sosa and Mario Pasalic were substituted for Mislav Orsic and Nikola Vlasic.
Those two changes though didn’t make much impact as Leandro Paredes saw his 49th minute shot saved as he tried to further extend Argentina’s lead.
Enzo Fernandez and Messi then both saw further shots denied as Croatia struggled to produce a proper goal threat, amidst set pieces which came to nothing.
Messi eventually killed off any dreams of a Croatian comeback in the 69th minute as he swiveled his way from the right flank into the box past Josko Gvardiol, from which he played a short pullback pass for Alvarez to calmly sweep across into the bottom-left corner.
Argentina eventually cruised to a comfortable victory and a sixth World Cup final in their history, where they will now await the winners of France’s semi-final tie against Morocco – of which the loser will meet Croatia in the Third-Place Play-Off on Saturday 17 December.
Argentina: Emiliano Martinez, Nahuel Molina (Foyth 86′), Cristian Romero, Nicolas Otamendi, Nicolas Tagliafico, Rodrigo De Paul (Palacios 74′), Enzo Fernandez, Leandro Paredes (Li, Martinez 62′), Alexis Mac Allister (Correa 86′), Lionel Messi, Julian Alvarez (Dybala 74′)
Substitutes: Franco Armani, Juan Foyth, German Pezzella, Angel Di Maria, Geronimo Rulli, Exequiel Palacios, Angel Correa, Thiago Almada, Guido Rodriguez, Paulo Dybala, Lautaro Martinez, Lisandro Martinez,
Croatia: Dominik Livakovic, Josip Juranovic, Dejan Lovren, Josko Gvardiol, Borna Sosa (Orsic 45′), Luka Modric (Majer 81′), Marcelo Brozovic (Petkovic 50′), Mateo Kovacic, Mario Pasalic (Vlasic 45′), Andrej Kramaric (Livaja 72′), Ivan Perisic
Substitutes: Josip Stanisic, Borna Barisic, Martin Erlic, Lovro Majer, Ivo Grbic, Nikola Vlasic, Marko Livaja, Bruno Petkovic, Ante Budimir, Mislav Orsic, Domagoj Vida, Ivica Ivusic, Josip Sutalo, Luka Sucic, Kristijan Jakic
Referee: Daniele Orsato (Italy)