Qatar 2022: Argentina vs.
Croatia, duel between seasoned teams 7:32
(CNN) -- Lionel Messi is just two games away from FIFA World Cup glory, but his Argentina team must first beat Croatia on Tuesday at the Lusail Stadium.
The European team again broke the odds and has entered another World Cup semifinal after defeating tournament favorites Brazil in the previous round and, make no mistake, Argentina will have a lot of work if they want to reach the final.
The Croats led a dazzling Brazilian team into the trenches on Friday after scoring a last-gasp equalizer that forced a penalty shootout, which they won thanks to another feat by goalkeeper Dominik Livaković.
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The Brazilians, who lit up the tournament with their attacking dynamism, were prevented from displaying their entertaining style of football by a well-equipped Croatian side with a resolute defence.
Argentina and Messi will have to be up for such a challenge, but the team have already shown their willingness to push themselves to find a way to win at Qatar 2022.
Messi and company were also forced to resort to penalties before winning their quarter-final match against the Netherlands on Friday, in an emotional encounter that showed the South Americans will not be easy opponents.
However, the match came at a cost, as defenders Marcos Acuña and Gonzalo Montiel were penalized with separate bookings in the quarterfinals, reached the limit of two and will not be available this Tuesday.
In addition, the physical state of Ángel Di María remains unknown, so Messi will have even more pressure on his shoulders to lead his team to a new final, after the one he lost in Brazil 2014 against Germany.
Messe has been in top form throughout the tournament, scoring four goals so far, but it was also his playmaking ability that was so devastating.
The 35-year-old may not have the speed he once possessed, but his passing and vision have been nothing short of outstanding in the tournament.
His assist for Argentina's first goal against the Netherlands, for example, was genius.
Despite the threat he represents, Croatia will not become obsessed with stopping just one player, striker Bruno Petkovic says.
"We still don't have a specific plan to stop Messi, and normally we don't focus on stopping one player, but the whole team," Petkovic told reporters on Sunday.
Croatia beat Argentina 3-0 in the group stage of the 2018 World Cup.
"We will try to stop them as a team and not by marking the man. Argentina is not just Messi, they have great players. We have to stop the entire Argentine team."
Croatia, for their part, are hoping that their veteran captain Luka Modrić can inspire the team to reach another final, having finished runners-up to France in 2018.
The 37-year-old has turned back the years in Qatar and has kept alive his team's hopes of pulling off another footballing miracle with a string of classy performances.
He has been helped by his teammates in midfield, Marcelo Brozović and Mateo Kovačić, who, as a unit, will put Argentina to the test this Tuesday.
"Mateo, Luka and Marcelo are the best Croatian midfield in history. I don't think it can be repeated. When you pass the ball to them it's safer than having your money in the bank," defender Josip Juranović said, according to Reuters.
According to data company Gracenote Sports, Argentina is now the favorite to lift the World Cup trophy.
"The probability of the [Argentina] team coming out victorious is 41%. The probability of France successfully defending their 2018 World Cup title is 26%," Gracenote said.
"The surprise semi-finalists, Morocco and Croatia, have a 17% and 16% chance, respectively, of becoming world champions."
"The most probable World Cup final of the four remaining possibilities is Argentina against France, which has a 37.5% chance," added Gracenote.
Lionel MessiWorld Cup Qatar 2022