A dazzling performance from Lionel Messi led Argentina to their sixth World Cup final with a 3-0 victory over Croatia at Lusail Stadium.
Messi now gets one last chance to win the piece of silverware that has eluded him in his trophy-laden career, but Manchester City’s 22-year-old striker Julian Alvarez also shone as Argentina ensured they would return here on Sunday to face either France or Morocco.
Messi looked to be struggling with a hamstring problem early on but Argentina’s little genius recovered enough to break the deadlock from the penalty spot after 34 minutes following Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic’s foul on the marauding Alvarez.
Alvarez doubled Argentina’s lead five minutes later when he took Messi’s header just inside Croatian territory and embarked on a slaloming run, aided by fortunate bounces off Josip Juranovic and Borna Sosa, before beating Livakovic.
There was no fortune involved in a brilliant third after the break as Messi mesmerised Croatia’s excellent defender Josko Gvardiol on the byeline before playing in Alvarez for the finish.
Messi will now have the opportunity to make amends for the bitter disappointment of losing the 2014 World Cup final to Germany in Rio’s iconic Maracana.
Argentina previously won in 1978 and 1986. (BBC)