When Argentina and Croatia compete to go to the World Cup final on Tuesday, two stars play for two powerful teams.
On Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET from Lusail Stadium, Argentina and Croatia will square off in the World Cup semifinals. In addition to the fact that it’s the World Cup, both teams have the seemingly perfect squad to advance to the finals.
When they fell to France in 2018, Croatia was the runner-up in the last World Cup. Lionel Messi, a superstar for Argentina who has never captured a world championship, is playing in what appears to be his final campaign. Only Germany has more teams that have made it to the World Cup final than Argentina, with six attempts (eight times). The Albiceleste have never suffered a semifinal defeat.
Messi vs Modric
As the captains of their respective teams, Lionel Messi and Luka Modric will square off against one another in a battle to get to the World Cup final. The two are two of the best soccer players to ever compete in the World Cup.
No other player has ever recorded both a goal and an assist on four separate occasions, but Messi has done both in three different World Cup games. In his last five games, he has scored four goals, and his exquisite assist to Nahuel Molina in their triumph over the Netherlands in the quarterfinals was a thing of beauty.
“Mesi is an animal,” said an Argentina fan after their defeat over the Netherlands in the quarterfinals. “He is like wine, the year goes by and he plays better. They can’t get it off him because the ball is tied to his feet.”
The last time Argentina made it to the World Cup final, they fell to Germany in Brazil in 2014 and were defeated 1-0. After the tournament, Messi will stop playing for the international team, thus this is his final opportunity to finally win the trophy. Even said, Messi is a major reason why Argentina is where it is now, and without him, the team would look very different.
“We don’t have a specific plan, at least not yet, for stopping Messi,” said Petkovic. “And usually we don’t concentrate on stopping one player, but the whole team. And the way we approach that is that we need to stop them as a team, not by man-marking or some kind of similar tactic.”
Croatia and Argentina entered the World Cup as the favorites to clinch the trophy. In the quarterfinals, Croatia shocked Brazil under the leadership of their own superstar Luka Modric. In extra time, they were trailing by one goal, but they battled valiantly to tie it up, and Bruno Petkovic’s goal forced a penalty shootout, which they won. In their four World Cup penalty shootout victories, two of which came during this competition, Croatia has never lost. In terms of victories, only Argentina has five more.
“I think there are many people who are not even professional soccer players who can take a penalty kick. The difference is how mentally tough you can be at those moments because it’s huge pressure,” said Petkovic. “Sometimes it’s pressure that you’ve never experienced before. Of course, it’s easier if you have a top-class goalkeeper who can save a penalty and give the whole team confidence.”
Luka Modric has made the most World Cup appearances (17) and most appearances at major tournaments (30) for Croatia.
Comparing their careers
Nearly everything has been won by Messi and Modric.
Messi’s accomplishments are incredible: Ten Spanish league titles, seven domestic cups, eight super cups, one Ligue 1 championship, one French Supercup, three UEFA Super Cups, four UEFA Champions League titles, and three FIFA Club World Cups were all won with Barcelona. He has four titles with Argentina: a CONMEBOL Copa America, an Olympic gold, a Finalissima, and a FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Messi won seven Ballon d’Or and the Golden Ball at the 2014 World Cup, making him a major individual honours winner. With only one trophy still to be won, it is a career that speaks for itself.
With Dinamo Zagreb, Modric won two league cups, one Supercup, three Croatian league championships, and three other honours throughout his playing career.
He has achieved everything possible while wearing a Real Madrid jersey, including three La Liga championships, four Supercups, one league cup, five UEFA Champions League triumphs, four UEFA Super Cup victories, and four FIFA Club World Cup victories. He came close to winning the most recent World Cup with the Croatian national team, falling to France in the championship match. As a tiny consolation, Modric received the Golden Ball for being the competition’s top player. He has also won the Ballon d’Or.
Messi and Modric history
Argentina and Croatia will meet once more after three prior friendlies and two World Cup contests. This will be their sixth meeting overall. Despite a goal from Messi in the first 10 minutes, Croatia defeated Argentina 3-2 in an international friendly in 2006.
A goal by Modric helped Croatia defeat them 3-0 in the group stage of their most recent meeting at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. While Argentina fell to eventual champions France in the Round of 16 by a score of 4-3, Croatia advanced to the finals and fell to them.
The pressure is on for both of these leaders to take their teams to the World Cup final as they now square off in Qatar during the quarterfinals of 2022.