Argentina did not allow the 2018 finalists Croatia any chance to make a comeback after going 2-0 up at the halftime break. Messi broke the deadlock with a goal from the spot in the 34th minute, his fifth of the tournament.
As it happened | Schedule & Results
Alvarez then doubled the lead five minutes later with a superb solo goal in the 39th minute. The game was all over for Croatia when Alvarez made it 3-0 for Argentina in the 69th minute after Messi brought out his vintage self to create the chance.
Argentina will now play the winners of the second semi-final between France and Morocco, on Thursday, in the summit clash on Sunday.
Argentina are in the #FIFAWorldCup Final! 🔥@adidasfootball | #Qatar2022
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) 1670964908000
While all eyes were on captain Messi and his fifth bid to win the one major trophy eluding him, it was Alvarez who almost stole the show, earning the penalty and scoring once in each half including after a scintillating 50-metre run.
Messi put away the spot kick in the 34th minute, after Alvarez was brought down by goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic, to become his country’s all-time World Cup top scorer with 11 goals, before the 22-year-old Manchester City forward took matters into his own hands to add a second five minutes later.
The pair combined perfectly in the 69th for Alvarez to tap in his second goal following a mesmerising Messi drive to the byline and perfect cut-back to make sure of Argentina’s sixth World Cup final appearance.
Finalists as recently as 2014, Argentina will look to land a third world crown after victories in 1978 and 1986.
𝑴𝒖𝒄𝒉𝒂𝒄𝒉𝒐𝒔 🎶 https://t.co/Nc4hxKjGHt
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) 1670965568000
Clinching the world title would also elevate seven-time Ballon D’Or winner Messi to the mythical status that the late Diego Maradona enjoys in Argentina.
On Sunday they will face either defending champions France or surprise package Morocco, the first Arab country in a World Cup semi-final, who play each other on Wednesday.
Croatia, the 2018 runners-up, wanted possession at the start, as they had done against Brazil in their quarter-final, and circulated the ball well but struggled to find a way into the Argentina box.
The South Americans, who have now won every World Cup semi-final they have contested, enjoyed fiery support from their fans who far outnumbered the Croats in the stands of Lusail stadium, also the site for Sunday’s showcase.
They exploded with a loud roar when Alvarez, who had their best chance in the 25th minute with a low shot, was brought down in the box for a penalty.
Messi, who drew level with Germany’s Lothar Matthaeus as joint record holder for most World Cup appearances with his 25th game, fired past Livakovic to give Argentina the lead after Croatia’s assistant coach Mario Mandzukic was sent off for dissent.
But the best was yet to come and it was Alvarez, nicknamed ‘the spider’, who delivered, picking up a Messi pass in his own half, sprinting 50 metres and weaving his way into the Croatia box, thanks to two lucky bounces and some sloppy defending, before tucking in the second goal.
Livakovic, who had carried Croatia into the last four with saves in their penalty shootout wins against Japan and Brazil, did well to stop an Alexis Mac Allister header on the stroke of halftime that could have killed off the game after 45 minutes.
However, unlike their extra-time comeback heroics against tournament favourites Brazil, there was no way back this time for Croatia.
Argentina were in no mood to squander their two-goal advantage as they had done against the Netherlands in the last eight, and they conceded no space.
Alvarez dashed any lingering Croatia hopes in the 69th, tapping in a cutback after Messi tricked his way past defender Josko Gvardiol on the right to pick out his team mate in the box who sealed the Balkan country’s tournament exit.
(With inputs from agencies)