After Brazil, tough contenders Croatia aim to end Messi’s dream | Qatar World Cup 2022

Croatia has already ended the World Cup dream of Brazil’s Neymar; now they hope to do the identical to Argentina’s Lionel Messi.

However, the Croat aspect won’t try to cease the Argentina famous person by man-marking him, as a substitute they’ll give attention to immobilising your complete group of their World Cup semifinal on Tuesday, members of the group mentioned.

“We don’t have a particular plan but for stopping Messi and normally we don’t focus on stopping one participant however your complete group,” Croatia’s striker Bruno Petkovic instructed a information convention on Sunday.

“We’ll attempt to cease them as a group and never with man-marking. Argentina will not be solely Messi, they’ve a variety of nice gamers. Now we have to cease your complete Argentina group,” he mentioned.

Croatia are bidding to make it to the ultimate for the second World Cup in a row after shedding within the 2018 showcase match to France, and with no gamers suspended and no harm considerations, the Croatian aspect is brimming with confidence.

Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Quarter Final - Croatia v Brazil - Education City Stadium, Doha, Qatar - December 9, 2022 Croatia's Luka Modric and Brazil's Neymar REUTERS/Annegret Hilse TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Croatia’s Luka Modric and Brazil’s Neymar throughout their quarterfinal match on December 9, 2022 [Annegret Hilse/Reuters]

They shocked match favourites Brazil within the quarterfinals after going a purpose down in further time however dug deep to bounce again with a late equaliser and compelled a penalty shootout that they ended up successful.

Brazil’s star striker Neymar was left in tears after the sport when Croatia emerged victorious 4-2 on penalties.

Croatia is now on a mission to do the identical with Messi’s group and forestall him from successful the one main trophy that has eluded him — a World Cup.

Croatia’s midfield comprising captain Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic can be key to dictating the tempo, as they did in opposition to Brazil, and Croatia defender Josip Juranovic mentioned on Sunday that the three have been totally reliable.

“Mateo, Luka and Marcelo are one of the best Croatia midfield in historical past. I don’t assume it may be repeated. Once you move them the ball it’s safer than having your cash within the financial institution,” Juranovic mentioned.

“I don’t assume we have to concern anyone. We have to take a look at ourselves to play our greatest recreation,” he mentioned.

“I might say the key of our success is our togetherness, our unity. The truth that we act and play as a household.”

Brazil's forward Neymar sitting on the pitch in tears after his team lost the Qatar 2022 World Cup quarterfinal football match between Croatia and Brazil.
Brazil’s ahead Neymar after his group misplaced their Qatar 2022 World Cup quarterfinal match in opposition to Croatia at Training Metropolis Stadium in Al-Rayyan, west of Doha, on December 9, 2022 [Adrian Dennis/AFP]

Seven-time Ballon D’Or winner Messi has up to now been the driving power for Argentina, who additionally wanted penalties after squandering a two-goal lead in opposition to the Dutch of their quarterfinal match.

Messi has been impressed throughout Argentina’s run to the match semifinals, scoring 4 objectives in 5 video games, and it seems he has taken it upon himself to steer his nation to a World Cup triumph.

Argentina final reached the ultimate in 2014 — shedding 1-0 to Germany on the Maracana Stadium in Brazil. That was as shut as Messi has come to lifting soccer’s largest trophy and he is only one recreation away from having one other shot at it.

With Messi on the helm, Argentina got here into the World Cup as one of many favourites however they face a giant roadblock within the type of Croatia.

With a never-say-die angle — even when the percentages are stacked closely in opposition to them — the disciplined Croat aspect are actually deservedly of their second-straight World Cup semifinal, and underestimating them would come at Argentina’s danger.

The Argentinians, on the lookout for their first World Cup title since Diego Maradona’s 1986 group win, have their work lower out.

Defenders Marcos Acuna and Gonzalo Montiel are suspended due to bookings, limiting coach Lionel Scaloni’s choices on the again. Nicolas Tagliafico might come on to exchange the previous however it will likely be a much less attacking formation, with wingback Acuna having added extra spark to the group.

A query mark additionally hangs over veteran Angel Di Maria and his health, with the 34-year-old having primarily been used instead within the match regardless of recovering from harm.

Messi, at 35, is enjoying probably his final World Cup and can also be carrying the burden of the nation on his shoulders. Comparisons of Messi with Maradona for the title of the best Argentinian participant of all time can’t be full with no world title, which the late Maradona gained nearly single-handedly 36 years in the past.

Argentina's Lionel Messi during the match against the Netherlands.
Argentina’s Lionel Messi in motion in the course of the Netherlands vs Argentina match at Lusail Stadium, Lusail, Qatar, on December 9, 2022 [Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters]

Strain swirling across the forthcoming encounter is intense, notably in regards to the prospect of a penalty showdown.

Argentina nearly didn’t make the semifinals after the Dutch got here from 2-0 down to attain twice late within the recreation and power further time and penalties in a bad-tempered encounter. A repeat of a penalty shootout, this time in opposition to mentally robust Croatia, should be a terrifying prospect for the Argentinians despite the fact that their keeper Emiliano Martinez rose to the event in opposition to the Netherlands, saving two spot kicks.

Croatia got here via two penalty shootouts and further time to achieve the 2018 ultimate earlier than shedding to France, and have gone to penalties in each their knockout stage matches in Qatar — in opposition to Japan and Brazil — to boast an ideal document and to be dubbed the “World Cup’s penalty shootout king” by the Wall Road Journal.

Primarily based on these statistics, one other shootout in opposition to Argentina would most probably carry them into the ultimate.