Argentina vs Croatia: Messi vs Brozovic & Other Key Battles To Watch Out For

A place in the 2022 World Cup final beckons on Tuesday night, as Argentina lock horns with Croatia in the semi-finals at the Lusail Stadium.

La Albiceleste beat the Netherlands on penalties after the game ended in a dramatic 2-2 draw. Lionel Scaloni’s men held their nerves from the spot and advanced to the last four.

Croatia, on the other hand, also had to rely on penalties to get past Brazil, who were held to a 1-1 stalemate. By breaking Brazil’s World Cup dreams, Zlatko Dalic’s side have made it to back-to-back semi-finals at the World Cup.

On that note, let us take a look at the three key battles that could define the outcome of the much-awaited semi-final encounter between Argentina and Croatia.

#Lionel Messi vs Marcelo Brozovic

Argentina’s progress to the World Cup semi-finals has largely been inspired by their skipper, Lionel Messi. The forward, 35, has scored four goals and registered two assists, managing to bring his excellent club form to Qatar in the process.

Captain, leader and a charismatic figure on the pitch, Messi has been unstoppable for large parts of the World Cup campaign and he will be raring to sprinkle his stardust against Croatia. Zlatko Dalic will be wary of the Argentina skipper’s threat and could task Marcelo Brozovic to keep a close check on him.

Expected to start as the deepest of Croatia’s midfield three, Brozovic, 30, was key in helping his nation overcome Brazil in the quarter-finals. The Inter Milan star will be confident of negating Messi after stopping Neymar and co., although the Samba star did manage to score in extra time.

While Brozovic’s quality on the ball is well-documented, it will be his energy, strength and positional sense which will be most useful as he tries to keep the mercurial Messi quiet.

#Luka Modric vs Rodrigo de Paul

Croatia’s midfield three, led ably by Luka Modric, has stood out in Qatar, helping Croatia to another memorable journey at the World Cup.

Modric, 37, was excellent against Brazil, bringing his class, skills, composure and experience to the floor to eliminate the five-time World champions. He is a big part of the way Croatia want to get about their gameplan, as he dictates the tempo of games with his passing range, reading of the game and defensive nous.

The Croatia skipper will come up against Argentina’s Rodrigo de Paul in the middle of the park. De Paul has been among Argentina’s consistent players at the World Cup, acting as the team’s engine with his energy, athleticism and tough tackling.

A tireless worker on and off the ball, the Atletico Madrid man should be tasked with preventing Modric from getting into his groove and controlling the flow of the game. Equally, Modric will have to be at his best to stop De Paul from getting into pockets of spaces in midfield and releasing the ball to Messi.

Thus, it promises to be a midfield battle worth watching!

#Josko Gvardiol vs Angel di Maria

Croatia’s success at Qatar has also been built on a resolute defence having conceded only three goals thus far en route to the final four, and Josko Gvardiol has been a major part of it.

Gvardiol, 20, has arguably been the best defender at the World Cup, demonstrating his composure in possession, game-reading sense and aerial ability. The young centre-back was excellent against Brazil and will be confident of stopping Argentina.

As for Argentina, Angel di Maria is likely to start on the right flank after coming on as a substitute against the Netherlands. Di Maria’s pressing, directness and movement could be crucial in preventing Croatia from playing out from the back.

Up against the coveted Gvardiol, the Argentina winger will look to drive at him and cause problems. Di Maria is a clever player and knows to make space for his teammates when driving at defences. Gvardiol must show early that Di Maria fails to hit his full stride.

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