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After Brazil, robust contenders Croatia goal to finish Messi’s dream | Qatar World Cup 2022

Croatia has already ended the World Cup dream of Brazil’s Neymar; now they hope to do the same to Argentina’s Lionel Messi.

However, the Croat aspect is not going to try and cease the Argentina famous person by man-marking him, as a substitute they’ll concentrate on immobilising your entire group in their World Cup semifinal on Tuesday, members of the group mentioned.

“We don’t have a selected plan but for stopping Messi and often we don’t consider stopping one participant however your entire group,” Croatia’s striker Bruno Petkovic advised a information convention on Sunday.

“We are going to attempt to cease them as a group and never with man-marking. Argentina aren’t solely Messi, they’ve quite a few nice gamers. We now have to cease your entire Argentina group,” he mentioned.

Croatia are bidding to make it to the ultimate for the second World Cup in a row after shedding within the 2018 showcase match to France, and with no gamers suspended and no damage issues, the Croatian side is brimming with confidence.

Croatia’s Luka Modric and Brazil’s Neymar throughout their quarterfinal match on December 9, 2022 [Annegret Hilse/Reuters]

They surprised match favourites Brazil within the quarterfinals after going a purpose down in further time however dug deep to bounce again with a late equaliser and compelled a penalty shootout that they ended up profitable.

Brazil’s star striker Neymar was left in tears after the game when Croatia emerged victorious 4-2 on penalties.

Croatia is now on a mission to do the identical with Messi’s group and forestall him from profitable the one main trophy that has eluded him — a World Cup.

Croatia’s midfield comprising captain Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic can be key to dictating the tempo, as they did in opposition to Brazil, and Croatia defender Josip Juranovic mentioned on Sunday that the three had been totally reliable.

“Mateo, Luka and Marcelo are the very best Croatia midfield in historical past. I don’t assume it may be repeated. If you go them the ball it’s safer than having your cash within the financial institution,” Juranovic mentioned.

“I don’t assume we have to worry anyone. We have to take a look at ourselves to play our greatest recreation,” he mentioned.

“I’d say the key of our success is our togetherness, our unity. The truth that we act and play as a household.”

Brazil's forward Neymar sitting on the pitch in tears after his team lost the Qatar 2022 World Cup quarterfinal football match between Croatia and Brazil.
Brazil’s ahead Neymar after his group misplaced their Qatar 2022 World Cup quarterfinal match in opposition to Croatia at Schooling Metropolis Stadium in Al-Rayyan, west of Doha, on December 9, 2022 [Adrian Dennis/AFP]

Seven-time Ballon D’Or winner Messi has to date been the driving power for Argentina, who additionally wanted penalties after squandering a two-goal lead in opposition to the Dutch of their quarterfinal match.

Messi has been impressed throughout Argentina’s run to the match semifinals, scoring 4 objectives in 5 video games, and it seems he has taken it upon himself to steer his nation to a World Cup triumph.

Argentina final reached the ultimate in 2014 — shedding 1-0 to Germany on the Maracana Stadium in Brazil. That was as shut as Messi has come to lifting soccer’s greatest trophy and he is only one recreation away from having one other shot at it.

With Messi on the helm, Argentina got here into the World Cup as one of many favourites however they face an enormous roadblock within the type of Croatia.

With a never-say-die perspective — even when the percentages are stacked closely in opposition to them — the disciplined Croat aspect at the moment are deservedly of their second-straight World Cup semifinal, and underestimating them would come at Argentina’s danger.

The Argentinians, in search of their first World Cup title since Diego Maradona’s 1986 team win, have their work minimize out.

Defenders Marcos Acuna and Gonzalo Montiel are suspended due to bookings, limiting coach Lionel Scaloni’s choices on the again. Nicolas Tagliafico may come on to exchange the previous however it is going to be a much less attacking formation, with wingback Acuna having added extra spark to the group.

A query mark additionally hangs over veteran Angel Di Maria and his health, with the 34-year-old having primarily been used in its place within the match regardless of recovering from damage.

Messi, at 35, is taking part in probably his final World Cup and can be carrying the load of the nation on his shoulders. Comparisons of Messi with Maradona for the title of the greatest Argentinian player of all time can’t be full and not using a world title, which the late Maradona gained virtually single-handedly 36 years in the past.

Argentina's Lionel Messi during the match against the Netherlands.
Argentina’s Lionel Messi in motion throughout the Netherlands vs Argentina match at Lusail Stadium, Lusail, Qatar, on December 9, 2022 [Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters]

Stress swirling across the forthcoming encounter is intense, notably concerning the prospect of a penalty showdown.

Argentina virtually didn’t make the semifinals after the Dutch got here from 2-0 down to attain twice late within the recreation and power further time and penalties in a bad-tempered encounter. A repeat of a penalty shootout, this time in opposition to mentally robust Croatia, should be a terrifying prospect for the Argentinians though their keeper Emiliano Martinez rose to the event in opposition to the Netherlands, saving two spot kicks.

Croatia came through two penalty shootouts and additional time to achieve the 2018 closing earlier than shedding to France, and have gone to penalties in each their knockout stage matches in Qatar — in opposition to Japan and Brazil — to boast an ideal report and to be dubbed the “World Cup’s penalty shootout king” by the Wall Road Journal.

Based mostly on these statistics, one other shootout in opposition to Argentina would most definitely carry them into the ultimate.

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