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The first semifinal of the 2022 World Cup pits Croatia against Argentina at the Lusail Iconic Stadium on the evening of Tuesday 13 December.
The Blazers shocked the football world by defeating Brazil on penalties (after a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes) in the first quarterfinal on Friday, while La Albiceleste triumphed over the Netherlands thanks to a goal and an assist from the legendary Lionel Messi – as well as nerves of steel in a penalty shootout!
“This is a victory for Croatian people," said coach Zlatco Dalic after the triumph over Brazil. "A great match. We eliminated the main favourites. This is Croatia – pride, courage, faith and patriotism."
He added, "Croatia is the best when it's needed. When it matters, Croatia always succeeds. No one should underestimate us. This is not the end, we are moving on. We can achieve a lot."
Meanwhile, Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni believes his side’s blend of quality and grit could yet tale them further in the tournament.
“That’s our identity – we fight for every single ball and try to be strong. That’s what we asked our players ahead of the match, and that really reassured us – that’s what we saw on the pitch,” said Scaloni.
Lionel Messi – The narrative that this World Cup will be Messi’s crowning moment as the greatest player of all time is gathering pace. However, the player himself will need to put all that out of his mind and focus on unlocking Croatia’s resilient defence.
Luka Modric – Croatia’s extraordinary playmaker continues to defy expectations (and father time!), having guided the Blazers into the final four of the World Cup for the second successive time. The Real Madrid man will aim to dominate the middle of the park, but how much does he have left in the tank?
In head-to-head stats, Argentina and Croatia have met in five previous matches. La Albiceleste and the Blazers have two wins each, with one game drawn. The teams’ most recent meeting was a group stage match at the 2018 World Cup in Russia which Croatia won 3-0 thanks to goals from Ante Rebic, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic.
Battles to watch
Lionel Scaloni v Zlatko Dalic – Scaloni’s Argentina have come a long way since their opening defeat to Saudi Arabia, but they face their toughest task in trying to break down Dalic’s defensive-minded Croatia.
Julian Alvarez v Dominik Livakovic – Alvarez has been a great foil for Messi in Argentina’s attack, but he’ll need to show sharp finishing to get the better of the outstanding Livakovic, who has been one of the star goalkeepers at Qatar 2022.
Rodrigo de Paul v Marcelo Brozovic – Two of the hardest-working midfielders at the World Cup, the battle between relentless runners De Paul and Brozovic will be one which determines control of the all-important ‘engine room’.
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FIFA World Cup broadcast details
Tuesday 13 December
21:00: Argentina v Croatia – LIVE on SuperSport Grandstand, SuperSport PSL, SuperSport Maximo 1, SuperSport Maximo 2, SuperSport GOtv La Liga and SuperSport GOtv Select 1
Argentina v Croatia Luka Modric of Croatia.
Argentina v Croatia_Alexis Mac Allister (C) of Argentina