Argentina sweeps past Croatia 3-0 to reach World Cup final

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Two goals by swashbuckling striker Julian Alvarez and a Lionel Messi penalty gave Argentina a 3-0 victory over 2018 runners-up Croatia in the first World Cup semifinal on Tuesday to set up a showpiece meeting with France or Morocco on Sunday.

Messi put Argentina ahead with a 34th-minute penalty after goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic tripped Alvarez as he chased a simple long ball and the Manchester City forward then charged 50 meters, somehow keeping possession via two rebounds as defenders tried to tackle him, to poke in the second five minutes later.

Croatia, who came from behind to beat Japan and Brazil on penalties in the last two rounds, tried to hit back in the second half but their neat passing failed to open any real cracks in a determined Argentine defense.

Messi then burst into life, showing mesmerizing control to drive to the byline and pull the ball back for Alvarez to tuck in the third after 69 minutes and wrap up the victory.

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