RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jose Breton/NurPhoto/Shutterstock (13664954bg) Lionel Messi right winger of Argentina and Paris Saint-Germain celebrates the third goal of his team during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 semi final match between Argentina and Croatia at Lusail Stadium on December 13, 2022 in Lusail City, Qatar. Argentina v Croatia: Semi Final - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, Lusail City - 13 Dec 2022

World Cup Tuesday Recap: Lionel Messi’s magical play propels Argentina to 3-0 victory over Croatia and sixth World Cup finals appearance

Recapping the Tuesday action:


Argentina erupted for two first-half goals during a five-minute span en route to a 3-0 victory over 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia on Tuesday at Lusail Iconic Stadium in Lusail, Qatar.

Lionel Messi’s third penalty kick of the 2022 World Cup turned out to be the game-winning goal for No. 3-ranked Argentina in the 34th minute, just moments after teammate Julián Álvarez drew a yellow card penalty inside the box. Messi made it a perfect three-for-three on his World Cup penalty kicks in Qatar, calmly converting into the top right corner of the net over a lunging Dominik Livaković. Messi’s goal not only made it 1-0 in favor of Argentina, but it also vaulted him into first place on the nation’s all-time leading World Cup goalscorer list with 11 and put him into a tie with France’s Kylian Mbappé with five goals in Qatar. They are also now tied with two assists each, which is the first tiebreaker for FIFA’s Golden Boot award (top goalscorer).

Álvarez followed suit just five minutes later for “la Albiceleste” of Argentina, scoring his first of two semifinal goals on a volley in the 39th minute after working his way past multiple Croatian defenders on a blazing sprint downfield with the ball. Álvarez found the net once more, this time on an assist inside the box from Messi in the 69th minute to give Argentina a commanding 3-0 advantage. Álvarez calmly footed the ball into the left corner of the net to give him his fourth goal of the current World Cup. The score tied him for second place overall in goals scored with Olivier Giroud, who still has yet to play his semifinal game when France faces Morocco on Wednesday.

Álvarez’s second score also moved him into a tie with seven other Argentines for eighth place overall on Argentina’s World Cup goalscorer list. The 22-year-old Álvarez of Manchester City, in the midst of a World Cup breakout campaign, now sits only one goal behind Mbappé and Messi for the prestigious FIFA Golden Boot award in his first-ever World Cup trip.

Tuesday’s semifinal contest in Lusail, Qatar, marked Argentina’s sixth overall appearance in the World Cup semifinals, where they now boast a resounding 6-0 undefeated record.

The Argentines have two World Cup titles (1978, 1986) and three runners-up finishes (1930, 1990, 2014) to their name, with Messi leading the way for the South American nation in all-time matches played (25). Messi, the 2014 FIFA Golden Ball award, will now make his second World Cup finals appearance in his last three trips. This is also Argentina’s fifth finals trip since 1978.

Argentina lost to Germany 1-0 in the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil and were eliminated by eventual champion France in the Round of 16 at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Argentina have scored at least two goals in four straight World Cup matches in Qatar, combined with five consecutive victories following their shocking 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia on Matchday 1 of group play.

With the loss, Croatia is headed for their second third-place game in six World Cup appearances, a phenomenal accomplishment for a European nation that has only been a FIFA member since 1998. Croatia finished in second place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia after losing to France 4-2 in the finals, when midfielder Luka Modrić also won FIFA’s Golden Ball award (best overall player). Croatia’s previous deep run into the tournament came in 1998, their first-ever appearance at the World Cup when they were also ousted by the French.

The “Chequereds” led the match in time of possession (61% to 39%), corner kicks (four to two), and total shots (12 to nine), although Argentina was the far more efficient side with seven shots on goal to just two for Croatia, as well six of those seven shots on target coming inside the box.

Argentina will await the winner of No. 4-ranked France versus No. 22-ranked Morocco in the finals, with a match date set for 9 a.m. CT this Sunday, Dec. 18, at Lusail Iconic Stadium. France and Morocco’s semifinal game will take place at 1 p.m. CT on Wednesday, Dec. 14, at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar. France is 7-1-3 all-time against Morocco, dating back to 1963.

Semifinals Schedule:

Wednesday, Dec. 14

Finals Schedule:

Saturday, Dec. 17

Sunday, Dec. 18

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