Argentina’s all-time leading goal scorer at World Cup finals, Messi, opened the scoring with a powerfully hit penalty on minute 34. Minutes later, Alvarez finished a direct solo run through the centre of Croatia’s defence and tapped in to double Argentina’s lead just before halftime.
With the help of Messi’s trademark run, which saw him slip past Josko Gvardiol and then pass the ball back to Alvarez for an easy goal, the team’s third goal was added by Alvarez.
Argentina, who has won the World Cup twice (1978 and 1986), will play either France or Morocco in the championship game on Sunday.
Croatia, who placed second in Russia four years ago, leaves the tournament after making another unexpected run to the quarterfinals.
“What we have experienced at the World Cup has been wonderful. We will play in the championship game, which is what we wanted, said Messi.
“I don’t know if it’s my best World Cup, it’s been a long time I’ve been enjoying. This team is crazy. We are going to play one more final, we are going to enjoy all of this.”
With his 25th game, Messi tied Germany’s Lothar Matthaeus for the most World Cup appearances. This was made possible by his inclusion in the starting lineup.
As they had against Brazil in their quarterfinal, Croatia sought out possession early on. They circulated the ball well, but they had trouble getting into the Argentina box.
Dominik Livakovic of Croatia fouled Alvarez in the penalty area, giving Argentina a golden opportunity to go in front. Messi successfully converted the penalty.
The best, however, was yet to come as Alvarez once more played a key role as he intercepted a Messi pass in his own half, ran 50 meters, and then weaved his way into the Croatia box with the help of two fortunate bounces and some shoddy defending before scoring the second goal.
With saves in their victories over Brazil and Japan in penalty shootouts, Livakovic, who had helped Croatia advance to the semifinals, did well to block an Alexis Mac Allister header just before halftime that could have ended the game after 45 minutes.
Argentina didn’t want to blow a two-goal lead like they had against the Netherlands in the last eight, so they made no room for error.
In the 69th minute, Alvarez ended any last Croatian hopes by converting a cutback after Messi evaded defender Gvardiol on the right to find his colleague in the area, who successfully eliminated Croatia from the tournament.
Messi continued, “We have experienced some difficult times, as well as some very positive ones. “We are witnessing something amazing today.
“I’m having fun with everyone here and with all the Argentinians visiting us. I suppose it must be insane.