Lionel Messi scored Argentina’s first goal in their World Cup semi-final against Croatia, converting one of his best penalties to date.
Argentina was frustrated in the early stages by Zlatko Dalic’s side’s precise and, at times, slow build-up play.
They dominated possession for long stretches of the first half, pushing Lionel Messi out of the game.
In fact, Messi wasn’t at his best for long stretches of the first half, and when he was seen stretching his hamstring in the first half hour, everyone held their breath.
He appeared to be struggling at times. But then, in typical Messi fashion, he’d burst into life with a mad dash or a burst of speed.
Then, on the half-hour mark, in-form goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic brought down Julian Alvarez. Messi took a deep breath, stepped up, and fired past Livakovic.
The game then began to slip away from underdog Croatia, who struggled to deal with Argentina’s attacking flair.
Lionel Scaloni’s side doubled their lead five minutes after Messi opened the scoring, when Julian Alvarez ran from his own half before converting past Livakovic after some questionable defending.
Zlatko Dalic attempted to play mind games before the game, claiming that all the pressure was on Messi and co.
“We are playing the great Argentina, a fantastic team led by Lionel Messi, they are highly motivated but under more pressure than Croatia right now,” he said.
“The semi-final match against England in the last World Cup was the greatest match of all time,” Dalic continued, “and the game against Brazil (in the quarter-finals here) comes in second.” If we win against Argentina, it will be the greatest historical game in Croatian history.
“It is one of the most important, significant matches for us – to repeat the success after only four years would be such a feat on the world stage.” It’s fantastic to be able to do it with a new national team, and I believe it will be a huge success.”