Target lotta in the desert

Argentina enjoys a well-deserved celebration.

Argentina enjoys a well-deserved celebration.
image: beautiful pictures

Sometimes the people who cover the game have to grip a story to match. And then sometimes Lionel Messi does it.

Argentina 3 – 0 Croatia

Geez, maybe we should let Brazil go.

Croatia is such a strange study. In the end, they won one of their six games in this tournament. They certainly don’t deserve to win against Morocco or Belgium. It was debatable whether they should have kicked close to extra time against Brazil, considering the number of shots and chances Brazil created. Dominik Livaković has just become a hydra in goal, which isn’t really what you plan on as a team but it’s still worth giving your team a chance to advance. It’s easy to point out the death triangle in Croatia’s midfield that Luka Modrić, Mateo Kovačić and Marcelo Brozović have become, because they are great players. And we all need an explanation for how Croatia has survived the past two World Cups when they haven’t actually won a game in official time. But without Livaković’s bravery, or Romelu Lukaku’s inability to determine the right direction in the second half of the match against Belgium, Croatia would not be here. They are not nearby.

And Argentina showed why they failed to do this in the semi-final. Argentina coach Lionel Scoloni was certainly aware of Croatia’s strength and planned accordingly, laying out his side in a 4-4-1-1 formation with essentially four central midfielders. in the midline. While Croatia dominated possession in the first half, with four Argentinian players all able to play in defensive midfield around the magic trio, Croatia saw any passing or coordination be blocked. In this map you can see that the Croatian midfield found a lot of passes to each other but basically nothing but that:

Of course, Argentina’s defensive plan made their attack a bit shaky in the first half hour of the match. Rodrigo De Paul is splitting on the right, and Alexis Mac Allister tries to expand on the left, but that’s not really what either of these two do.. Argentina was not a big threat in the early part of the game. But when it comes to Dejan Lovren, even in a Croatia shirt, there’s always room for mischief:

Lovren, for some reason only he knows, was about 5-10 yards behind the rest of the defence, which was trying to get Julian Alvarez offside. Lovren’s charity gave Mac Allister the space to make this pass to Alvarez, which resulted in a penalty that Messi maliciously took.

A one-goal lead only made Argentina’s passage more difficult, and suddenly they found coordination and passes everywhere. Their second goal had a huge part in luck, as Alvarez had not one but two Croatia tackles that sent the ball bouncing right in front of him, including the second, which left the ball alone. room for him to finish. However, he made the ball about 70 yards to get there.

From there, it was child’s play, as Argentina had no intention of making these two goals as exciting as their last game against the Netherlands. They were very weak on the ball, leading to them rushing forward on the counter. They froze the game on one of them, which we’ll look at in a moment.

The story you’ll hear from here until Sunday is how Argentina has grown in this tournament after its defeat to Saudi Arabia. But not all are so accurate. They weren’t that bad against Saudi Arabia, and were only eliminated by 2 lightning strikes will never happen again. Understandably, they were nervous and cautious against Mexico as their tournament played out in the balance. They didn’t really have to do anything against the Poles, who were happy to start with a loss that left them out of the group. All three of their knockouts have been similar, with them carefully wading into them before taking the lead. The only difference here is that they look secure in defending the aforementioned lead, thanks to a third goal and Croatia’s lack of tightness.

That is not to say that Argentina was in the finals wrong, and far from right. Their midfield only strangled Croatia’s life, and no one could solve the latter problem.

For all the talk about how Argentina has consistently lost to Messi and all Croatia knows how to do is win, this will be Messi’s second World Cup final in three games. the Copa America final that he dragged Argentina to. If Gonzalo Higuain hadn’t pulled the test version of Lukaku in multiple finals, the discussion would have been completely different. Argentina has a similar knack progress that Croatia makes. They may not look like the people who beat the world in the process, but they keep getting there.

And now a step to finish.

Goals for the day

I mean… come on…

35-year-olds are not allowed to run faster than 20-year-olds, much less can do it twice in just a few seconds. Messi doesn’t do that much anymore, preferring to team up with Neymar and Mbappe at PSG to score beautiful goals. Or the long shots that Mexico has seen in the group stage. What a travesty that this is somehow still in his closet. And this is not against some idiot like Lovren. Joško Gvardiol is arguably the best defender in this tournament. His soul is now glued.

Does VAR damage anything?

No, free of that. Maybe save its big moment for the finale.

Did Qatar/FIFA mess something up?

See above.

Did Alexi Lalas say anything stupid?

Usual profanity, but a word on these Tom Rinaldi videos has become a parody of themselves. He has two today, one on penalties and one on Messi and Modric. You could have swapped the voiceovers for both and I doubt someone noticed.

They all start out the same and continue as if every three words there was another ellipsis. I guess it was to build up the drama, but it looks like he forgot how to read the script. “They were the best players…of their generation…and now…they meet…as…opponents…again…just like they did. …in Spain…pause for effect…oh, isn’t this epic?” Dude, shut up.

The free kick one contains another Rinaldi staple, where something inanimate or ambiguous speaks in first person. This time, the penalty point is actually supposed to be narrating this. That ended with a hilarious punch in the groin,”I am… PK” Dude, nobody calls it “PK” It’s not used to play defense for Canadaiens and Predators. Not everything is a Death Star escape narrative.

Both of these are perfect support for Rinaldi bulge on Harry Kane, which somehow made Kane a loser even though he is a must-see for Spurs fans as he can shave and he has scored 21 goals at the age of 21 for surname. The initiator of it all is Kane who was “saved” by his love for Tom Brady. Serious. Rinaldi got the torch from Jim Gray as a reporter who farted so high he thought he was Homer now (Greek, non-animated).

Edict for the deceased – Croatia

It’s sad that this will be Modric’s last World Cup, because he’s been treated for the last two tournaments, as well as last year’s Champions League win with Madrid, especially since he’s out of work. nothing to continuously hit them against Chelsea, City and Liverpool. But he did. If there is a better technical midfielder at this stage I have never seen him, and his ability to play every midfield role is a real miracle. Especially when you consider that he’s basically a hobbit.

That will be Modric’s story, because the best midfielder in the world isn’t really from Croatia, and Croatia shouldn’t be making such a fuss in successive World Cups. However, they made it, mainly thanks to Modric’s support and a lot of luck.

I still don’t know how good Croatia really is. You can only really say that they played really well against Canada. You could argue they played well against Japan and they were resilient against Brazil, which was enough to lead to penalties in every game. However, they do not ask how in a World Cup.

However, you can only cross the limit for so long, no matter how likely you are to do it, as Croatia did. In the end, the real quality will beat you. The difference between the quarter-finals and the semi-finals is that Brazil essentially emptied the midfield against Croatia. Argentina packed it. And now is the time for a new generation of Croatians, and they will most likely never come close to the achievement of this generation. But history is not always written only by the winners. People still talk about the great Hungarian teams of the ’50s. Or Brazil 1982. Or Cruyff’s ’70s Netherlands. Notably, that’s what Croatia got after 2 tournaments. It’s a achievement in itself.

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