Lionel Messi and Luka Modric are facing off in a mouth-watering World Cup semi-final between Argentina and Croatia on Wednesday morning, desperate to seize their final chance to win football’s ultimate prize.
The crowd of 80,000 inside Lusail Stadium is rocking with an atmosphere that seems more like an Argentinian home game as Messi, now 35, hopes to reach 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 his extraordinary career by emulating another Argentine great, the late Diego Maradona, who lifted the trophy in 1986.
The Paris Saint-Germaine forward has equalled Lothar Matthaus’ record for the most World Cup appearances with his 25th start.
He was named in Argentina’s starting side, however, the South American team did make some big, late team changes.
Midfielder Leandro Paredes and defender Nicolas Tagliafico were brought into the starting line-up.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni drafted in Tagliafico in place of the suspended left-back Marcos Acuna and Paredes took the spot of centre-half Lisandro Martinez.
The switch means Argentina have reverted to four at the back rather than the five-man defence with advanced wing-backs that they used in the penalty shoot-out win over the Netherlands.
Scaloni has stuck with the same forward line he operated against the Dutch with Messi playing behind Julian Alvarez.
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic named an unchanged team to the one which beat Brazil on penalties in the last eight with Andrej Kramaric starting as the central striker.
Forward Bruno Petkovic, whose late goal in extra-time forced the game into a penalty shoot-out, started on the bench again.
Story Credit: news.com.au