Just hours left before the semi final match-up putting Argentina against Croatia on the cards.
Messi and Modric, two former Ballons d’Or winners will be on a mission, when Croatia pits Argentina in the World Cup semis. The two teams will be driven by wild hope, and an exceptional atmosphere expected at the Lusail stadium: as the semi-final will see the South Americans take on the Europeans, in a game that has everything to be a classic in the Mondial-2022.
On one side, is Messi, skipper of the Albiceleste. Argentina prides itself in this competition as winners of two World Cups (1978, 1986) but there has been none for the Paris SG striker Lionel Messi, who on his fifth attempt, hopes to do better than the 2014 final and join Diego Maradona in the pantheon of Argentine and world football.
At the opposite end, there’s Luca Modric who won the Ballon d’Or in 2018.
A dream of a midfielder, Modric has arguably been the best of the competition, and he now has the possibility of reaching a second World Cup final in a row, in what will be an incredible feat for a country a with little under four million inhabitants.
Modric aged 37 and Messi, 35, are symbolic N.10s who have been amazing in Qatar. Thry both have probably won a place in the team of the tournament. However, two of the world’s greats are looking for the trophy, in this World Cup which will probably be their last.
For Messi, it is a question of crowning his legacy with a planetary title to cap an incredible career during which he has won 7 Ballon d’Or’s, and every other individual and collective trophy, except the World Cup.
Messi has already scored four times in this year’s World Cup. Argentina will be playing at a familiar hunting ground.
Argentina has made the 40,000 capacity Lusail stadium its home.
The semis will mean their fourth game there since the start of the tournament. Fans of the Celeste hope to return there on Sunday for the final.
Messi is surrounded by a team of valiant soldiers, some of whom are very far from having half of his talent but are fearless, as they showed in a terribly tensed quarter-final against the Netherlands that ended 4-3 on penalties after 2-all in Extra time.
Lionel Scaloni is sweating over the fitness issues of Rodrigo De Paul, Cristian Romero, Julian Alvarez and Angel Di Maria for a 100% return.
“We must continue on this path, continue to progress and gain confidence. We said that the Copa America (won in 2021, editor’s note) was the start of something important and we are on this path”, declared Argentina’s Lautaro Martinez after the quarter-final.
Martinez has failed to star in the competition so far but he didn’t tremble as he transformed the decisive penalty against the Oranje.
The Croats also had to go past the quarter-finals after a sensational World Cup win, eliminating Brazil on penalties from one-down to make it 1-1 at the very end of extra time.
When it came to picking World Cup favourites, many forgot about Croatia. Modric and his team have proved to be amongst elites and shown that they are indeed vice-champions with that majestic trio in the mid consisting of: Modric-Brozovic-Kovacic. They have a solid goalkeeper accompanying the team. Dominik Livakovic saved two penalties in the quarter-finals and he has been nothing short of special throughout this competition.
“One of the reasons for our success is precisely that we are a small country, a very small country. We know how our country was built, how it won independence. By fighting, because you have nothing in life if you don’t,” Bruno Petkovic said on Sunday.
The Croatian has had a bumpy career through a string of second-tier Italian clubs before returning to Dinamo Zagreb, his boyhood club, as his perseverance is paying off.
It is Petkovic’s goal against Brazil that extended the game to penalties.
Possible XI Argentina: Martínez – Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Tagliafico – Di Maria, De Paul, Enzo Fernandez, Mac Allister – Messi, Alvarez.
Possible XI Croatia
Livakovic (Gk), Juranovic, Lovren, Gvardiol, Sosa, Modric, Brozovic, Kovacic, Pasalic, Kramaric, Perisic