Lionel Messi urged his teammates to “enjoy” the occasion after Argentina breezed past Croatia 3-0 on Tuesday to set up a World Cup final against France or Morocco. Seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi set Argentina on their way with a first-half penalty before Julian Alvarez scored twice at Qatar’s Lusail stadium, where Sunday’s final will be held. “Argentina are, once again, in the World Cup final. Enjoy it!” said Messi. “We’ve been through tough situations, other very good ones. Today we’re experiencing something spectacular.”
Messi’s fifth goal of the tournament means he overtakes Gabriel Batistuta as Argentina’s top goalscorer at World Cups — he now has 11 goals. “I’m enjoying it with all these people (fans in Qatar) and all the Argentines that are in our country,” he said. “I imagine it must be crazy there.”
Argentina arrived in Qatar as one of the tournament favourites but doubts crept in after they lost their opening group game 2-1 against outsiders Saudi Arabia.
“We knew what we could do, we were confident,” said the Paris Saint-Germain forward. “We knew we weren’t the favourites but no one gave us any presents — we deserved everything we’ve got.”
Alvarez, who began the tournament on the bench but has now scored four goals in four games, said the team deserved the win.
“In my family they must be going crazy, like the whole country I guess,” he said.
Midfielder Rodrigo De Paul said Argentina’s victory in the Copa America last year, when they beat Brazil 1-0 in the final in the hosts’ Maracana fortress, had given them the belief they could go all the way in Qatar.
Argentina were unbeaten in 36 matches before arriving in Doha.
“We had a lot of belief — we’ve just become champions of (South) America. This team showed what it was capable of,” he said.
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