Argentina and Croatia lock horns at Lusail stadium on Tuesday evening for a spot in the World Cup Final next Sunday. Both sides qualified for the semifinals on penalty shootouts. Lionel Messi and Argentina edged out the Netherlands in a World Cup classic. Meanwhile, Croatia stunned pre-tournament favorites Brazil. Luka Modrić hopes to go one step […]
Argentina and Croatia lock horns at Lusail stadium on Tuesday evening for a spot in the World Cup Final next Sunday. Both sides qualified for the semifinals on penalty shootouts.
Lionel Messi and Argentina edged out the Netherlands in a World Cup classic. Meanwhile, Croatia stunned pre-tournament favorites Brazil.
Luka Modrić hopes to go one step further from Russia four years ago. Back then, the European side finished runners up to France. At the same time, Argentina are looking to capture the coveted trophy for the first time since 1986. It narrowly missed out in Brazil in 2014 after losing to Germany in extra time.
The World Cup battles between Argentina and Croatia
Here are the key battles that could decide the mouthwatering clash.
Midfield sets the tone
In Modrić, Mateo Kovačić and Marcelo Brozović, Croatia arguably have the best midfield trio in world football. Zlatko Dalic’s men line up in a 4-3-3 dominating the proceedings in the middle of the field. Also, it can switch to a 4-5-1 without the ball. In doing so, Andrej Kramarić and Mario Pašalić tuck in to work tirelessly in a midfield five.
Croatia aim to slow Argentina’s tempo with their ball retention. Moving the ball around makes it difficult for La Albiceleste to get a foothold into the game.
Lionel Scaloni has dealt with the lack of Giovani Lo Celso very well throughout the tournament. Alexis Mac Allister, Enzo Fernandez and Rodrigo De Paul formed a formidable partnership. The side has vertical transition to contribute to the attack with every opportunity.
Earlier, De Paul nursed a pre-match injury scare to play 65 minutes against Netherlands. Argentina requires its midfield metronome to be fully fit for the Croatia World Cup clash. The Atletico star will be a key player to shut down the Brozović and Modrić. The former ran more than 10 miles against Japan in the Round of 16. Once again, he put out a lung-bursting display against Brazil the the quarterfinal.
Argentina need to shut down the space to stop Croatia from dictating the proceedings and will need to hit the European side with a fast build up putting in pressure higher up the pitch and on the final third.
Wingplay could decide the result
Argentina come into the clash without fullbacks Marcos Acuña and Gonzalo Montiel. Both picked up suspensions following accumulation of yellow cards. Missing Acuña will be huge blow for Scaloni. The Sevilla star has been a revelation in the tournament. The 31-year-old is defensively solid and contributes tirelessly on the left wing.
Acuña shut down Denzel Dumfries against Netherlands. In the same contest, he won the penalty that saw Argentina race to a 2-0 lead. With Acuña out for the clash, Croatia will look to exploit the left wing with Pašalić and Josip Pašalić hunting in pairs, especially the latter who had a great match against Brazil managing to keep Vinícus Jr and Rodrygo quiet for the entire duration.
The right wing is where Argentina have an advantage, Nahuel Molina scored the opener against the Dutch thanks to Messi’s incredible reverse pass assist and the Atletico full back will fancy his chances against Kramarić while also taking on left back Borna Sosa with his darting runs.
De Paul has played admirably in a right sided role and should Angel Di Maria be fit and ready to start, Croatia will have to cope with constant pressure on the right flank.
Messi moments and Gvardiol
Joško Gvardiol is arguably in the form of his life. Once again, Croatia rely on the 20-year-old center back to keep Argentina at bay. The RB Leipzig star performed beyond his years. Alongside Dejan Lovren, the pair proved to be a solid pairing at the heart of the defense.
Argentina will be looking to press high with Julian Alvarez up front while Lionel Messi will be living for his ‘moments.’ The 35-year-old PSG star has looked unplayable over the course of the World Cup. Despite Croatia’s wealth of talent, it has to keep a close eye on the diminutive left-footed genius.
Messi looks to drift into half spaces dragging the defenders out of possession. Then, he either goes himself in the final third or looking to create an opportunity when there seemed little danger. As Dalic said, his team needs to be at their disciplined best to contain the Messi menace.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Xinhua