From Doha to Buenos Aires: Messi's magic leaves Argentina fans dreaming with title

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By Cyril Fourneris  & Mario Bowden  with AP
Lionel Messi celebrating with his teamates after beating Croatia 3-0 in the Lusail Stadium, Doha, 13 December 2022
Lionel Messi celebrating with his teamates after beating Croatia 3-0 in the Lusail Stadium, Doha, 13 December 2022   -   Copyright  AP Photo

Lionel Messi is just one game away from having his hands on the World Cup. In the first of two semi-finals, Argentina secured a comfortable 3-0 win against Croatia. A penalty from Messi got the ball rolling in the first half, followed by a second from Julian Alvarez.

Alvarez scored his second with 20 minutes remaining, but it was Messi’s assist that people will remember the goal for.

The Argentinian captain swerved and swivelled his way into the Croatian box – twisting and turning defender Joško Gvardiol in his wake before slotting it to Alvarez. To many onlookers, he turned back the clocks to the Messi of 2013.

For Croatia, the hopes of getting to a second consecutive final fell short. Despite coming back to Brazil in the quarter-finals on penalties, there were to be no more last-minute surprises.

It could very well be captain Luka Modrić’s last-ever World Cup in a Croatian shirt. The Real Madrid star bowed out of the match in the 81st minute after being substituted.

Fans celebrate all over the world

Thousands of Argentina fans have travelled to Qatar for the tournament to witness their side book their second final in the last eight years. Tuesday's match was also the Albiceleste’s 4th outing at the Lusail Stadium – the fifth will be the final.

The scenes back home in Buenos Aires were just as ecstatic. Fan zones have been dotted all around Argentina's capital like here at Plaza Intendente Seeber. Celebrations went on throughout the day and certainly into the night.

"I want to cry with joy!”

"They have achieved what we all wanted,” one fan tells Euronews. “We all wanted to see Argentina on the top. There's still a long way to go, but this Sunday I want to cry with joy!”

Another says "We have faith in Messi and the other players. Game after game they show us that we are the best in the world."

Can Argentina go all the way?

History was on Argentina’s side for Tuesday’s game as they have won their last four semi-finals. Finals though have always been a bit trickier, losing their last two in 1990 and 2014, both times at the hands of Germany.

During this tournament, Messi has already reached some other milestones in Qatar.

He surpassed Diego Maradona as the Argentina player with the most appearances in the World Cup during the group stage, and joined Gabriel Batistuta with 10 goals in the tournament by scoring a penalty against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals.

Admitting that’ll be his last World Cup, Messi hopes to leave the tournament with the trophy that has long eluded his glittering career.

Argentina will face either France or Morocco in the final, who play on Wednesday evening.

Watch the video in the player above.