In what could easily pass for a ‘no-contest’ duel, Argentina easily brushed aside Croatia in the first of the semi-finals of Qatar 2020 .
The 3-0 win is the widest margin of vctory in a World Cup semi final match in recent history. The closest to it was the 7-1 home whitewash of Brazil by Germany in the 2014 edition. Before then, one will have to go back to the 1930 and 1954 semi finals that produced such wide margin defeat like 6-1 loss of USA to Argentina and similar scoreline recorded by Uruguay against the then Yugoslavia from where modern day Croatia emerged.
Croatia had kicked off Tuesday night match dominating possession before a suden change of tide.
Two goals by swashbuckling striker Julian Alvarez and a Lionel Messi penalty gave Argentina a 3-0 victory.
Messi put Argentina ahead with a 34th-minute penalty after goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic tripped Alvarez as he chased a simple long ball and the Manchester City forward then charged 50 metres, somehow keeping possession via two rebounds as defenders tried to tackle him, to poke in the second five minutes later.
Croatia, who came from behind to beat Japan and Brazil on penalties in the last two rounds, tried to hit back in the second half but their neat passing failed to open any real cracks in a determined Argentine defence.
Messi then burst into life, showing mesmerising control to drive to the byline and pull the ball back for Alvarez to tuck in the third after 69 minutes and wrap up the victory.