Julian Alvarez (9) celebrates with forward Lionel Messi. (Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports)
Within a five-minute span in the first half, a goal by a soccer legend and another tally that reminded us about another icon of the sport went a long way to boost Argentina into the World Cup final on Tuesday.
Lionel Messi, who performing in his final World Cup, converted a penalty kick and Julian Alvarez scored off a brilliant individual, sparking the Argentines to a 3-0 comprehensive victory over Croatia in the semifinals at Lusail Iconic Stadium in Doha, Qatar. Alvarez added a second goal in the second half.
Argentina will meet the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal encounter between France and Morocco in Sunday’s final.
Alvarez, who had a hand, or rather a foot in all three goals, scored off a jaunt that reminded many observers of the late, great Diego Maradona’s astounding goal against England at the 1986 World Cup.
After both sides felt each other out in the opening half hour, the Argentines struck twice within a span of five minutes.
Alvarez was fouled by goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic in the penalty area to give the South Americans a penalty kick and the netminder a yellow card. Teammate Mateo Kovacic also got carded, for dissent.
Going up against the premier penalty-shot stopper of this competition, Messi powered a shot into the upper right corner to lift Argentina into a 1-0 lead and his fifth goal of the tournament, tying with France’s Kylian Mbappe, his Paris St-Germain teammate, for the lead. He also has three assists.
Five minutes later just after defending a corner kick, the Argentines doubled their lead and pleasure off a counterattack. Just after Messi was fouled at midfield, Alvarez ran onto a long pass and bolted straight through the heart of the Croatian defense. First, he beat midfielder Marcelo Brozovic and then defender Borna Sosa from in close while defender Nahuel Molina took two Croatian players with him as a decoy on the left side. Alvarez then deposited the ball past Livakovic for a 2-0 advantage.
This view of Julián Álvarez's run on the second Argentina goal 😍🔥 pic.twitter.com/M1VE73BtpE
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 13, 2022
Messi and Alvarez were not quite finished.
In the 69th minute, they teamed up for Argentina’s third goal. Messi turned his marker around on the right flank and about a step away from going over the end line, he pin-pointed a pass to Alvarez, who slotted it home from chose range and a 3-0 margin. Alvarez, who is the backup of striker Erling Haaland at Manchester City, has seven international goals and four in this World Cup.