The evolution of Lionel Messi into a clever creator who is behind the frontline has accelerated at the current World Cup.
Croatia and Argentina meet on Tuesday at Lusail Stadium with a place in the World Cup final at stake. Let’s look at some of the main factors that affect the match.
Messi and Modric magic?
The evolution of Lionel Messi into a clever creator who plays behind the frontline is accelerating at the current World Cup. Messi showed just how efficient Messi can be by executing his brilliant defense-splitting pass that make the first goal in the quarterfinals against the Netherlands.
Croatia isn’t likely to set an individual man-marker on Messi and is relying on an excellent defense with one of the most effective midfielders of the tournament to get the advantage. Marcelo Brozovic occupies the deepest defensive role within the Croat midfield and will likely be the one with the most work to do to stop Messi at 35. However, Mateo Kovacic put in a solid defensive performance against Brazil and will likely be asked to replicate that performance.
In the field, Croatia has its own tiny veteran guru in the 37-year-old Luka Modric. Modric’s ability to control the pace while also ensuring that possession is maintained and move his team forward in danger is crucial to the Croatians’ hopes of making it to consecutive World Cup finals.
Croat endurance or fatigue?
Similar to when it was four years ago Russia and the United States, where Croatia took the knockout round in every game following extra time – twice with penalties – prior to the final Zlatko Dalic’s team has demonstrated an amazing ability to produce results that go beyond 90 minutes. Croatia lost the first score against Japan as well as Brazil but then came back to take the game to penalties and ultimately win.
Do those impressive mental strengths show their worth again or will the long-running fights cause physical harm? It’s good for Croatia to know that Argentina also went to penalties during their emotionally exhausting quarter-final victory against the Netherlands and an important factor in the game on Tuesday is which side finds themselves in a better state of mind for the job.
The 12th man of Argentina
If there’s a single area in that Argentina has an advantage, it’s in the stands with over 40 000 Argentine supporters swayed in support of their team at Lusail Stadium against the Dutch. The atmosphere was so raucous that the final eight-minute game made it into a home match for Argentina and only a few fans wearing orange at the stadium, which has a capacity of 89,000.
It’s likely to be the same scenario in the same stadium on Tuesday, but with Croatia’s smaller number of supporters drowned out the chants and songs of the Argentine fans. What effect will that have on the match? Most likely. Numerous studies have demonstrated that performing in the presence of a crowd that is supportive can affect performance positively.
Chance to strike?
With Messi in a greater job, Argentina finds itself in the unorthodox circumstance of not having a world-class player, which is the same for Croatia. Dalic began the semi-final match in the semi-final against Brazil using Andrej Kramaric as the center forward, but Bruno Petkovic replaced him and was able to score the crucial goal to equalize.
In the match against those the Dutch, Argentina started Manchester City’s Julian Alvarez as their main striker, with Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez taking over and causing a lot of trouble during extra time.
It will be interesting to find out whether either of these substitutes will be given a chance to play in the semi-final, or if they’ll be called upon to play on the bench.