Goal scorers among themselves: Lionel Messi (left) hugs Julián Álvarez after his goal to make it 2-0
Photo: CARL RECINE / REUTERS
The Argentine national football team is in the final of the World Cup in Qatar after beating Croatia 3-0 (2-0).
In a one-sided semi-final game against the 2018 runners-up, a penalty kick by Lionel Messi gave the Albiceleste the lead (34th minute), Julián Álvarez increased after a solo run before the break (39th).
Álvarez completed a co-production of the goalscorers after fine preparatory work by Messi (69th).
Argentina's opponents in Sunday's final will be decided on Wednesday evening (8 p.m., TV: ZDF and Magenta) between defending champions France and Morocco.
The losers of the match take on Croatia in the third-place play-off on Saturday.
In the early stages, Croatia gained a clear advantage in possession, but there was no threat of a goal from Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez.
Indeed, it was 25 minutes before the first shot on goal at the Lusail Stadium - and Argentina had it when Enzo Fernández fired a lax long-range shot as a warm-up for Croatia keeper Dominik Livaković.
Then, out of nowhere, things got even more precarious: Croatia's central defender Dejan Lovren didn't pay attention to a long ball from Fernández, and a gap opened up for Álvarez.
When the Manchester City attacker flicked the ball past Livaković, Livaković tripped him up.
Referee Daniele Orsato immediately pointed to the penalty spot, Messi scored the penalty with a hard shot in the top right corner of the goal (34').
Croatia's defense is crumbling
Only five minutes later, Álvarez appeared in the Croatian half, with a bit of luck he dribbled past three opponents and made it 2-0 (39 ').
Croatia were lucky when Livaković saved a third goal before half-time with a reflex save from Alexis Mac Allister's header (43').
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalić made offensive changes during the break, bringing on Mislav Orsić for Borna Sosa and Nikola Vlasić for Mario Pasalić.
Center forward Bruno Petković replaced defensive midfielder Marcelo Brozović just five minutes later.
However, the fresh attackers were not successful, instead Messi had the next big chance from an acute angle (58th).
Then came what was probably the most impressive moment of the evening: Messi twisted around opponent Joško Gvardiol with several lightning-fast hooks and directional gestures, kept the overview after dribbling and found Álvarez in the six-yard box, who scored his second goal (69th).
The Croatian defense was broken, the team around superstar Luka Modrić couldn't find a way back into the game.