Today at the World Cup: Argentina and Croatia ready to go head to head


Argentina and Croatia go head to head in the first of the World Cup semi-finals on Tuesday, with France and Morocco then meeting in the second 24 hours later.

Here, the PA news agency looks ahead to the last-four showdowns in Qatar and how things have been unfolding in the build-up.

Messi set to equal record

Lionel Messi, chasing glory at what is likely to be his last World Cup, is set to make a record-equalling 25th appearance in the competition in Tuesday’s contest at the Lusail Stadium, matching former Germany player Lothar Matthaus.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni said of the 35-year-old skipper: “He’s always been a winner. He’s so eager, willing to keep playing football so we’re very happy about this.

“We will keep enjoying him. That’s the most (important) thing we can do – that’s for us and the world of football.”

Left-back Nicolas Tagliafico said: “He’s our captain, our leader. He’s the one pushing us, motivating us. He’s the one who has that special advantage.”

Scaloni defends his men

Argentina advanced to the semis on Friday by beating the Netherlands 4-3 on penalties after a 2-2 draw, and Scaloni has defended the behaviour of his team during that fiery contest.

Scaloni’s players were quick to goad their opponents after triumphing in the shoot-out, referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz dished out bookings aplenty, and FIFA announced disciplinary proceedings against both federations for the misconduct of players and officials in the match.

Scaloni said: “The previous game was played the way we had to play it from both teams, the Netherlands and Argentina, and that’s football.

“In football, sometimes you have to defend, attack and some games, you know, things can happen like the previous game. There can be arguments, more challenging times, but that’s all. That’s why there is a referee to make justice.

“We respect all the teams. We need to put an end to this idea of us not being good winners or losers – that’s very far from who we actually are as a team, as a squad and as the way we represent this nation.”

Croatia seek ‘greatest’ moment

Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic believes victory over Argentina would eclipse the semi-final win against England that he oversaw en route to the team finishing as runners-up at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Dalic, whose side beat Brazil on penalties in their last-eight game on Friday, said: “The semi-final match against England in the last World Cup was the greatest match of all time, the game against Brazil comes in second.

“If we win tomorrow that would make it the greatest historical game for Croatia of all time.

“We are among the four best teams in the world, that is an extraordinary success for Croatia, it is a great thing for two World Cups in a row to be in the four best national teams in football. (And) we want more.”

No French complacency says Varane

Wednesday’s match at Al Bayt Stadium sees the defending champions in France, England’s conquerors in the last round, take on the tournament’s surprise package in Morocco, victors over Portugal in the quarter-finals.

Looking ahead to the match, France defender Raphael Varane said: “We have a lot of experience and will not fall into the trap of thinking we’re favourites.

“If Morocco have reached the semi-finals it is not down to luck. They defend really well and it is going to be a really difficult game.”

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Tuesday, December 13

Argentina v Croatia (1900GMT, ITV1)

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