When Croatia and Argentina square off in Tuesday’s World Cup semifinal at Lusail Iconic Stadium, they will be looking to go to back-to-back finals after sending one South American powerhouse home from the tournament.
A few hours before La Albiceleste defeated the Netherlands from 12 yards, Zlatko Dalic’s team had already eliminated Brazil on penalties to settle tense quarter-final matches.
Argentina’s quarter-final matchup with the Netherlands was a perfect example of how chaotic, competitive, and unpredictable the 2022 World Cup can be.
Through Nahuel Molina and the cool penalty of the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, a Lionel Messi-inspired Albiceleste appeared to be headed for the semi-finals. However, a late brace from Wout Weghorst, including an equalizer in the 100th minute, caused the most unlikely of extra times.
The outcome of the match would be decided by yet another penalty shootout, and despite numerous fights, roughhousing, and an astounding 17 yellow cards, Argentina maintained composure to win and move on to the semifinals.
While Lionel Scaloni’s crop will not be able to experience an all-South American semifinal between Brazil and Argentina, the Copa America winners’ history in World Cup semifinals makes for very interesting reading.
Argentina has never lost in the World Cup’s last four and has advanced to the championship game each time they have reached this stage. Their most recent appearance in this stage was in the 2014 tournament, just before their painful loss to Germany.
Scaloni’s brave goal scorers have scored twice in each of their past four games in all competitions, totaling 14 goals in their last 14 games. However, confronting the tenacious rearguard action of Croatia is a challenge that Messi and co. must diligently prepare for.
Dominik Livakovic denied Brazil time and time again before once again playing a crucial role in the shootout victory over the South Americans.
After stopping Brazil 11 times, Livakovic saved Rodrygo’s penalty in the shootout, allowing the red and white to deliriously celebrate reaching their second straight World Cup semi-final.
The Checkered Ones, who are now unbeaten in 11 games heading into their encounter against Argentina, are on the verge of repeating history after Dalic’s team miraculously advanced to the 2018 World Cup final without winning any of their knockout games in regular time.
Only Italy, the Netherlands, and Germany have ever made back-to-back final appearances, so Croatia would be in very exclusive company if they can advance to the championship game. Dalic’s team can also take heart from the fact that they have scored in all 10 of their World Cup knockout games.
A memorable 3-0 victory over Argentina was achieved by the Checkered Ones in Russia four years ago, and several members of that team are still present to try to make lightning strike twice in Lusail. Argentina and Croatia have previously faced each other twice in the World Cup group stage, with La Albiceleste winning both times by a score of 1-0 in 1998.