Lionel Messi and Luka Modric face off in a mouthwatering World Cup semi-final between Argentina and Croatia on Tuesday, desperate to seize their final chance to win football’s ultimate prize. In the second semi-final on Wednesday, reigning champions France take on giant-killing Morocco, the first African team ever to reach the last four of a World Cup. But first all eyes will be on the cavernous Lusail Stadium, where Messi, now 35, will attempt to fire Argentina into the final for the second time in eight years against the 2018 runners-up.
Messi, who suffered defeat to Germany in the 2014 final, is desperate to crown an extraordinary career by emulating another Argentine great, the late Diego Maradona, who lifted the trophy in 1986.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward was a pivotal figure in Friday’s stormy quarter-final win over the Netherlands, when a record 18 yellow cards were shown and players from both sides were involved in a melee as the referee fought to regain control.
Even the normally mild-mannered Messi was caught up in the bad blood, shouting abuse at Dutch players while he was being interviewed after the game.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni defended his players’ conduct on Monday, insisting they had nothing to apologise for.
“The game the other day was played in the right way by both teams. That is football,” said the 44-year-old Argentina coach.
“I don’t buy this idea that we don’t know how to win. The game was played in the right way.”
Croatia, who beat Japan and pre-tournament favourites Brazil in penalty shoot-outs to reach the last four, have not won a knockout game in normal time at a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup, where they came third.
Despite doing it the hard way, the country of fewer than four million people shocked the football world by reaching the final four years ago in Russia, where France crushed their dreams with a 4-2 win.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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