An inspired Lionel Messi scored from the penalty spot and Julian Alvarez struck twice in 39th and 69th minute of the game as Argentina beat Croatia 3-0 on Tuesday to reach their second World Cup final in eight years.
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 winners of Wednesday’s semi-final clash between holders France and Morocco in Sunday’s final.
Messi, 35, who suffered a defeat to Germany in 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 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.
Messi saved his best for last though, tormenting Josko Gvardial down the right before leaving the 20-year-old defender behind and pulling the ball back to Alvarez who coolly slotted home.
Croatia were finished but it was clear that Argentina and Messi are peaking just in time for the biggest game of their lives.
Argentina had a vocal and moral support of their South America colleagues. The former Brazil midfielder, Ronaldinho, met his 2002 World Cup winning teammates in Qatar for the semi-final clash between Argentina and Croatia at the iconic Lusail stadium.
The former Barcelona star arrived in Qatar for the rest on the tournament this week and watched his former teammate, Messi lead Argentina in the last four game. Ronaldinho was in the company of Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Cafu and former goalkeeper Dida.
Up next defending champions France take on Morrocco at 9 pm today.
Let the best team win.