Daily predictions – Messi’s magic to see Argentina into the final

Argentina against Brazil seemed like a real possibility at this World Cup.

A semi-final between the great South American rivals was tantalizing, but Brazil failed to do the job against Croatia in the quarter-finals, despite taking the lead in extra time thanks to Neymar’s superb goal.

The 2018 finalists fought back and tied the game on penalties, securing their place in the semi-finals for a second consecutive tournament.

Argentina also needed kicks to overcome the Netherlands, but Lionel Messi seems in the mood to finish his last World Cup on a high.

Using facts from Opta, Stats Perform provided insights and predictions ahead of the first semi-final of the 2022 World Cup.

All local times.

Argentina v Croatia – Lusail Stadium (2200)

This is the third World Cup meeting between Argentina and Croatia, but the first in the Round of 16. Argentina won 1-0 in 1998 before Croatia won 3-0 in Russia.

Argentina are seeking to reach the World Cup final for the sixth time, a figure second only to Germany (eight). They have never been knocked out in the semi-finals before, most recently beating the Netherlands in 2014.

After beating Brazil in the quarter-finals on penalties, Croatia could become the second team to eliminate Brazil and Argentina from the same World Cup round of 16, after Germany eight years ago .

Croatia won all four penalty shootouts at the World Cup, knocking out Japan and Brazil in the round of 16 and quarter-finals respectively. The only nation to have won the most penalty shootouts in the competition is, ironically, Argentina (five).

As Opta do not count penalty shootout wins as victories, Argentina have won just one of their last seven World Cup games against European teams (D3 L3), beating Poland 2-0 in the group stage this year. However, two of those three draws allowed the Albiceleste to progress on penalties.

Player prediction – Lionel Messi to score or assist: If Croatia want to progress, they will probably have to find a way to silence Messi. That’s easier said than done, of course. The 35-year-old has scored (four) or assisted (four) eight of Argentina’s last 11 World Cup goals and has both scored and assisted in two of his last four games.

Match forecast – Match to be drawn in 90 minutes: Argentina’s last two World Cup semi-finals have ended in draws, while Croatia have drawn six of their last nine World Cup matches, including the last three. Indeed, eight of their last nine tournament knockout matches have gone to extra time.

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