Argentina are in the final: Five takeaways from day 24 of World Cup 2022

Lionel Messi of Argentina celebrates after the 3-0 win during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 semi final match between Argentina and Croatia at Lusail Stadium on December 13, 2022 in Lusail City, Qatar.
(Image credit: Shaun Botterill - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Argentina are in another World Cup final. Eight years after Lionel Messi got his best chance to win the trophy, he has another chance.

The Albiceleste were magnificent in a 3-0 win, with their No.10 starring front and centre. Now, the South American nation has a sixth showpiece to look forward to this Sunday.

Here are the five main takeaways FourFourTwo has learned over the course of another day of World Cup action. 

Lionel Messi's 'adapted' game is still unplayable

Lionel Messi (L) fights for the ball with Croatia's defender #20 Josko Gvardiol during the Qatar 2022 World Cup football semi-final match between Argentina and Croatia at Lusail Stadium in Lusail, north of Doha on December 13, 2022.

(Image credit: GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images)

Lionel Messi might have gone past players with ease a decade ago but Father Time reaches everyone. As he's proven tonight, however, his second-best option is still outstanding.

Messi had to slow almost to a stop in his mazy run past Josko Gvardiol to set up Argentina's third. Gvardiol has been no slouch in this tournament, either. It goes to show that the Flea has adapted his game nicely and that though defenders don't worry about Messi outpacing them anymore, he has other weapons to draw on. 

His strength and balance are now his strongest suits when he motors away from players – more so than speed these days. Oh, and the final ball to Julian Alvarez wasn't half bad, either. 

Maybe other players slowly down in their 30s could learn a thing or two from the great man. 

Julian Alvarez is far more than just a backup performer 

Julian Alvarez of Argentina celebrates following his team's victory in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 semi final match between Argentina and Croatia at Lusail Stadium on December 13, 2022 in Lusail City, Qatar.

(Image credit: Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Lautaro Martinez began the World Cup up front for Argentina. Julian Alvarez stepped in and hasn't looked back.

Time has been limited at domestic level for the 22-year-old given that arguably the greatest centre-forward in the world has that spot covered – but Alvarez can certainly mix it with Argentina's other options. He's one of the best forwards in this tournament, has a big-game nous that Martinez has lacked and does the hard running that Messi can't anymore. 

Not only does he offer something to the World Cup finalists, does it give Pep Guardiola food for thought? Sure, Erling Haaland doesn't need much help but Alvarez is returning to the Etihad Stadium arguably with more credit than any other City star. 

He was superb again tonight and will on Sunday surely start a World Cup final for his country. It's well-deserved. 

Croatia (desperately) need a centre-forward

Mateo Kovacic, Luka Modric, Ante Budimir, Ivo Grbic and Dejan Lovren of Croatia look dejected following their sides defeat after the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 semi final match between Argentina and Croatia at Lusail Stadium on December 13, 2022 in Lusail City, Qatar.

(Image credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Croatia reliance on extra-time and penalties has been a minor talking point not only at this World Cup, but at the previous one too. In 2018, Luka Modric & Co. were unable to win a single knockout game in normal time, despite reaching the final. In Qatar, they needed additional time and penalties in both of the previous post-group-stage rounds before losing to Argentina. 

While this has earned plaudits for Croatia's endurance and character, it speaks volumes about their ability to kill games off. A clinical side wouldn't need to run themselves ragged round after round; they would win in the 90 minutes provided. 

For all their brilliant midfield schemers, Croatia simply don't have a gunslinger up front. Their top scorer in Russia was Ivan Perisic, with three strikes. This time, they exited with Andrej Kraramic their top marksman, with two. It's not good enough, and the Croatian FA will be carefully monitoring the next generation, hoping a poacher emerges. 

Luka Modric bows out a legend

Luka Modric of Croatia shows dejection in the tunnel as he leaves the pitch after the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 semi final match between Argentina and Croatia at Lusail Stadium on December 13, 2022 in Lusail City, Qatar.

(Image credit: Maddie Meyer - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

A nation of just 3.5 million people isn't supposed to reach one World Cup semi-final, no matter how football mad. Croatia have reached two on the bounce, and much of that is down to the generational genius of their captain and talisman Luka Modric. 

The Real Madrid man walked off the pitch after the final whistle in Qatar bruised and broken, knowing this his final chance to get his hands on a World Cup was blown. He'll be bitterly disappointed, but he needn't be. Modric was sensational again during this World Cup, setting the rhythm for his team's attacking play and running his socks off for the cause. 

The 2018 Ballon d'Or winner might not ever get his hands on the title he craves most, but he'll go down as a legend, having inspired his team to two top four finishes. Thanks for the memories, Luka. 

Ally McCoist should commentate on every game

Ally McCoist World Cup 2022

(Image credit: Getty Images)

He's been the star of the tournament… not Messi, McCoist.

The former Rangers man has been in electric form throughout the World Cup and Twitter got its wish when McCoist was dropped into the commentary booth as the third wheel for Sam Matterface and Lee Dixon. The contrast between Dixon's gruff nonchalance and McCoist's composed delight was clear to see, with the Scotsman coming out on top for enjoyability.

It's that he makes his job sound as if he's doing it for free. His "banter" doesn't feel forced and he doesn't try and say anything too over-the-top. He lets Messi do the talking. 

Getting Ally on ITV's last big solo game before the final feels like they're realising just how popular the big man really is. Can we have him on Premier League games after this is all over? 

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Mark White
Staff Writer

Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. An encyclopedia of football shirts and boots knowledge – both past and present – Mark has also been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals for FFT and has written pieces for the mag ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career. He once saw Tyrone Mings at a petrol station in Bournemouth but felt far too short to ask for a photo.