Messi, Modric battle for final spot

Having already sent one South American behemoth home from the World Cup, Croatia will be aiming to reach back-to-back finals when they lock horns with Argentina in Tuesday’s semi-final at Lusail Iconic Stadium.

The penalty prowess of both sides settled nervy quarter-final contests, as Zlatko Dalic’s men dumped Brazil out on spot kicks a few hours before La Albiceleste beat the Netherlands from 12 yards.

If there was one game to characterize the chaotic, feisty and unpredictable nature of the 2022 World Cup, Argentina’s quarter-final with the Netherlands followed the script to a tee.

Argentina have never been eliminated from the World Cup in the final four and have progressed to the final every time that they have got this far – the fifth and most recent of which came in the 2014 tournament before their heartbreaking defeat to Germany.

Scaloni’s gallant goalscorers enter the semi-finals having made the net ripple twice in each of their last four matches in all tournaments – scoring in each of their last 14 in total – but facing the staunch rearguard action of Croatia is a challenge that Messi and co must prepare for with due diligence.

While Brazil were struggling to find a way through the notoriously dogged Croatia defence, Neymar took it upon himself to break the deadlock in the 106th minute with a wonderful goal, but Bruno Petkovic’s 117th-minute effort found its way into the corner via a deflection to force a 12-yard battle of nerves.

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