Lionel Messi helped seal Argentina’s place in the World Cup final with a virtuoso performance in a 3-0 win over Croatia.
Messi’s opening goal from the spot took him past Gabriel Batistuta as Argentina’s top scorer at the World Cup. Julian Alverez scored two further goals to see them comfortably past Croatia.
Just after the half hour mark, a through ball between the centre backs found Alvarez and he poked the ball past Dominik Livakovic who crashed into him. Messi emphatically smashed the resulting penalty into the roof of the net.
A few minutes later Argentina broke from a Croatian corner, Alvarez picked up the ball in his own half and led the charge. Having made it to the box unchallenged he bundled his way past two defenders and guided the ball past Livakovic.
This was one comeback too far for the Croatians. The third goal came in the 70th minute, Messi jinked and swayed, stopped and started along the right wing, Josko Gvardiol just about keeping up with him until he reached the box. Messi’s last drop of the shoulder took him past the defender, and he squared the ball for Alvarez’s second.
Messi will lead his team out on Saturday with the ultimate prize within his reach.