Argentina vs Croatia. Prediction and Preview. Probable Lineups, Team News, Stats, and more

Headliners of opposing teams, Lionel Messi and Luka Modric

Argentina will meet Croatia in the FIFA World Cup 2022 semi-final match at the Lusail Stadium. The fixture will take place on Wednesday, December 14, beginning at 00:30 IST.

All through the tournament, we have been watching how the provisional list of favourites has fluctuated and whether it reflects reality. Up until the quarter-finals, there were occasional screw-ups: Germany was considered a medal contender, but didn’t even make it out of the group. Then Spain stumbled, another team that was widely regarded as the favourite. And now, we have seen another major setback as Brazil, the team that had been leading all the rankings, was eliminated! And Croatia, which was put in the last place in the quarter-final rankings, went through to the semi-finals. Similar situation with Morocco and Portugal

And while Cristiano Ronaldo has already left the last Mundial of his life in tears after remaining on the sidelines in the decisive games, his main vis-a-vis Lionel Messi still cherishes the hope of finishing his national team career on the major note – by lifting the coveted World Cup trophy over his head. 

Would he be able to guide Argentina to a victory over a Balkan side that had not lost a single match in the competition before surprisingly stunning Brazil, who were seen by many as the tournament favourite? We will see very soon. Parimatch News will tell you everything you need to know ahead of the upcoming match.

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Argentina News & Current Form: 

This will be Argentina’s sixth World Cup semi-final. And here’s a striking fact: without exception, all these Mundial editions were victorious. Certainly, Lionel Messi and Сo. are eager to continue this enjoyable tradition.

Despite the fact that Argentina are already just two steps away from the 2022 World Cup trophy, the tournament path cannot be described as an easy one, it can even be argued that such progress is literally a metaphor for successive fights for survival. During the tournament stretch, the South Americans have lost a lot of emotional energy while the role of luck cannot be undermined as well.

The group stage began with a real sensation. At the Qatar World Cup, Argentina kicked off their tournament with a 1-2 defeat to Saudi Arabia. It was the first defeat for the players of Lionel Scaloni in the last 37 meetings. And this loss was not caused by a small mistake or by some fortunate coincidence. The Saudis almost disarmed a status opponent with offside traps and tight midfield play.

However, the match was apparently a kind of shock therapy, because right after a rigorous calibration test Scaloni made a couple of decisive tactical decisions and personnel changes, particularly in attack. Their following 2-0 wins against Mexico and Poland gave the Argentines a fast track heading into the play-offs. After that, they defeated Australia and the Netherlands. The last game can already be called a World Cup classic as the teams created unprecedented intensity and intrigue. The match was even and both opponents definitely deserved to go further, however, the rules of the competition are crystal clear – a set of semi-final tickets is on offer for just one side. Happily for the South Americans, fortune was on their side. Everything was decided in the penalty shootout, where the Argentines were more cold-blooded and more accurate than their opponents.

Both teams gave their fans a lot of positive moments in the game. But they also provided plenty of embarrassing episodes, which are usually referred to as “unsportsmanlike conduct”. In total, the “Battle of Lusail” saw match referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz showing 18 yellow cards and 1 red — a World Cup record.

“I don’t want to talk about the referee because you can’t be honest. If you talk they sanction you; FIFA must think about it, they can’t put a referee who isn’t up to the task for these instances,”

said Messi after the сlash.

Of course, FIFA did not hesitate to open a disciplinary case against White and Blues. The Netherlands national team also took a hit. But they do not care anymore – they are done with the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It has also now come to light that Lahoz’s performance has caused his World Cup campaign to come to an end. The 45-year-old will no longer oversee matches at the tournament and is expected to return home to Spain.

But we will know on the day of the game against Croatia if any serious disciplinary sanctions will be taken against some of the Argentinian players, particularly Messi and Emiliano Martinez, Nicolas Otamendi and Leandro Paredes, who treated the opponents with disrespect.

Significant is the fact that in the first round of the play-offs – in the game against Australia – the Argentines also initially led confidently to 2-0, but at the end of the game allowed themselves to relax. And not without problems they kept a fragile lead of 2-1. 

Such a pattern is a very worrying sign for La Albiceleste. Scaloni’s side have had some concentration problems throughout the game: the team can easily score against the opponents, but can just as easily slip up and concede a goal.

In the context of Argentina’s national team, their captain and leader should definitely be mentioned. This World Cup will be the last one for La Pulga, and the 35-year-old veteran is eager to put one missing piece in his trophy cabinet. He really wants to become a world champion and is seemingly doing everything he can to do so.

By all accounts, Leo’s Qatar Mundial is far better than the 2014 World Cup, when the Argentines also made it first to the semi-finals and then to the final. Messi’s contribution to the team’s performance cannot now be overstated. Number 10 has six points on goal + pass: four goals and two assists. Leo is the first Argentine to participate in four World Cups.

On top of that, he is now in the top ten in terms of goals scored at the World Cups (he has 10 accurate shots already and will certainly not be stopping there). In addition, Messi broke the record set by Diego Maradona for the number of games in an Argentinian World Cup jersey: 24 against 21.

We expect the magic to continue from arguably the greatest player of the modern era. 

Two suspended players, laterals Gonzalo Montiel and Marcos Acuñа, will not be able to help their captain. The former, however, is not the core player in his right-back position, losing the competition to Nahuel Molinа. The experienced Acuña, on the other hand, will be replaced by Nicolás Tagliafico. A change in Scaloni’s tactical scheme is also expected – a return to the classic 4-3-3 from the Netherlands’ 3-5-2 – and the return of Angel Di Maria to the starting line-up. 

Croatia News & Current Form: 

“Going to the World Cup for the sake of participation” was the angle from which many fans and experts perceived the trip of the reigning World vice-champion to Qatar.

Indeed, compared to the 2018 World Cup, where the Balkans caused a real sensation, the Zlatko Dalic team, four years later, no longer seemed bright, nor one of the favourites before the Mundial 2022. Leaders like Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic, Dejan Lovren, and Domagoj Vida have grown old while a core of promising players like Luka Sucic and Josko Gvardiol are not yet ready to step up to the plate. So the maximum objective for the Blazers, according to football pundits, was just to get out of the group.

But the skeptics were despicably put to shame. Though it should be noted that it was not easy for the Croats to qualify for the play-offs. It was very tough.

In the opening game, the team coached by Dalić played out a very tedious 0-0 draw with Morocco. The next game was a 4-1 demolition of Canada. But in the third game (against the Belgians) – again, another zeros, which, however, allowed the team to reach the play-offs.

Then Japan was waiting for them. The Croatians were the first to concede a goal, but found the strength to level the score. The outcome of the contest was decided in a penalty shootout, in which Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic was the hero.

He also became a hero in the next penalty series – in the quarterfinals against Brazil. In that game, the Croats were again the first to concede (in overtime), but again found the strength to recover and convert the game in a penalty shoot-out, where Livakovic again impressed everybody.

Both at the 2018 World Cup and at the tournament in Qatar, the Croatians’ excellent physical preparation was eye-catching. They have already played in two overtimes, and in terms of movement and speed they were not outdone by their opponents.

As before, Luka Modric plays a key role in the Croatian team’s formations. The 37-year-old captain links the team’s defense and midfield. He may not be as bright as he was four years ago, but his role in the team is still crucial.

And yet, unlike Argentina, Croatia is not as dependent on its leader. Dalic’s team is more flexible tactically, more rigorous in terms of structuring the game. They may not be as spectacular as their semi-final opponent in terms of creation, but they will certainly want to make it to their second consecutive World Cup final.

Lionel Scaloni, the Argentinian coach, said:

“It is a pleasure to see Luka Modric on the pitch, to watch him play. Not only because he is talented, but also because of the way he respects others”.

The Croatian team is sticking to a defensive trend. The Checkered squad  has shown solid defensive play in qualifying for the 2022 World Cup and the 2022/2024 UEFA Nations League. In Qatar, it is no different. In five games, the opponents have taken 66 shots on goal, 22 of which have been on frame against Dominic Livakovic.

Only three of the shots were missed by the Dinamo Zagreb and national team goalkeeper. In the last three matches, he has received the highest marks among national team players.

Croatia’s commitment to convert the World Cup play-offs into extra-time matches is evident. At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the Croats played an extra 90 minutes. In Qatar, Zlatko Dalic’s men were able to crush Japan and Brazil only in the penalty shoot-out.

The Croatian team is distinguished by its harmonious performance. The coaching staff rarely used to rotate the squad. Eight players have spent 460 minutes or more on the pitch. 

The difference between the 2018 and 2022 Croats is simple: four years ago, Modric and company tried to attack and played much more openly. In Qatar, the seriously aging team is much more defensive-minded: in five games, the Checkers have created just 5.5 xG of chances, half of which took place in their only win – against Canada (4-1).

Tactical awareness, football pragmatism and surprisingly good physical preparedness are the main strengths of Zlatko Dalic’s team at the moment. In the play-offs, the Croats reached penalties against Japan and Brazil, but did not look tired at the end. It should not be forgotten that both times they got back into the game, which also speaks to their psychological resilience.

Argentina form guide: W-L-W-W-W-W

Croatia form guide: L-D-W-D-W-W

Argentina vs Croatia Head-To-Head Record:

  • June 4, 1994: Argentina 0-0 Croatia (International Friendly);
  • June 26, 1998: Argentina 1-0 Croatia (FIFA World Cup);
  • March 1, 2006: Argentina 2-3 Croatia (International Friendly);
  • November 12, 2014: Argentina 2-1 Croatia (International Friendly);
  • June 21, 2018: Argentina 0-3 Croatia (FIFA World Cup).

Argentina vs Croatia Predicted XI:

Argentina’s possible starting lineup (5-3-2): E. Martinez; Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Tagliafico; Fernandez, De Paul, Mac Allister; Di Maria, Messi, Alvarez.

Croatia’s possible starting lineup (4-3-3): Livakovic; Juranovic, Gvardiol, Lovren, Sosa; Modric, Brozovic, Kovacic; Pasalic, Kramaric, Perisic.

Statistical preview of the match Argentina vs Croatia:

  • Argentina’s First XI average age 27.5 yrs.
  • Croatia’s First XI average age 29.4 yrs.
  • Team Argentina is ranked 3rd in FIFA ranking.
  • Team Croatia is ranked 12th in FIFA ranking.
  • Argentina goes undefeated in 4 of their 5 matches at the World Cup in Qatar
  • Argentina has not lost in regulation time in 13 of their last 16 matches at the World Cup (8 wins, 5 draws).
  • The defeat by Saudi Arabia in the first leg of the 2022 World Cup is Argentina’s only loss in 31 previous official matches (21 wins and 9 draws in regulation time).
  • Argentina has scored at least 2 goals in 6 of their last 7 World Cup games.
  • Croatia reached the semi-finals of the World Cup for the third time. They reached the final in 1998 and 2018. They reached the final only once, at the last World Cup.
  • In their last 12 World Cup matches, the Croats have lost just once (4 wins and 7 draws in regulation time).
  • Croatia has conceded first in 7 of their last 9 matches at the World Cup, but they have only lost in one of them. 
  • Argentina scored more than 1 goal in 4 matches in a row.
  • Argentina scored in 10 matches in a row.
  • Argentina has scored first in their last 5 home games.

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What has been said before the match:

Lionel Scaloni, Argentinian coach, commented on the upcoming match:

“They [Croatia]  have troubled many national teams. I won’t mention the key players or their strengths and weaknesses but we’ve analyzed where we can hurt them. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t”.

“We try to give it all on the pitch. Sometimes luck can be on your side. If we have a good performance, we’ll have an easier road to reach our objective. But this is football, this is sport, so sometimes the best team may not win”.

“We won’t change our style beyond the system and that’s what we’re going to do. During the game we will of course make decisions (based on situations) and rise up to the challenge.

“The previous game was played the way we had to play … that’s football. Sometimes things like arguments can happen, but that’s all. That’s why there’s a referee”

he said about “unsportsmanlike” behavior.

Zlatko Dalic, Croatian coach, said:

“We made it to the top four teams in the world, which is a great success for Croatia, it’s a big thing that we’ve done it two World Cups in a row. Now we want more, we’re playing against a great Argentina, an excellent team led by Leo Messi. They have more pressure, we know how they play what they want to win the match for. I trust the players, we won’t adapt much, Croatia will impose its own way of playing,” said the Croatian coach.

“I said never underestimate us, our pride, faith and patriotism. My players are not normal! We are a country with about three and a half million people, and for the second time under my leadership we are in the semi-finals, I am proud.” 

“In penalty shootouts we believe we are the favorites. It’s almost as if our opponents know they are going to lose when they get into a penalty shootout against us because they know how we win”.

“Messi is in great form and can solve the game by himself, but he has the support of his teammates in combativeness and compactness, they are well balanced. They relaxed a little and the Netherlands equalized, maybe that warned them. I expect them to be even more combative, they will have a great support from the stands, it’s a handicap for us. The pressure is on them. We’re playing with one of the greatest teams in the world in history and we’re going to enjoy football”.

He also commented on Morocco’s success:

“Everyone has the right to their dream. Four years ago, Croatia made that dream possible for all the little ones, and gave them the right to dream it. At that time, no one expected that we would be in the final, inspired by our example, struggle and quality. All the other teams lived that dream dream, and so does Morocco. They have had great support, got past Belgium, Spain and Portugal, they have the right to hope that they will be the best. But let Croatia have the right to be the best as well”.

Argentina vs Croatia Prediction:

Argentina, although not without trouble, reached the semi-finals, where they were matched up against Croatia, who they are quite capable of beating. Despite all the heroics of the Checkers, they are unlikely to be successful today – Argentina’s leader Lionel Messi is in great form and the Albiceleste have progressed throughout the tournament, adapting quite easily to their opponents and, when necessary, shifting up the pace and intensity of the game to score goals. 

Indeed, Croatia have already beaten a far more potent Brazil. But the key difference between the Seleção Canarinho and Argentina at the Mundial in Qatar is that the Brazilians felt everything was easy, the dancing while thrashing their opponents knocked the Brazilian out of the water,

However, as soon as something went wrong, they were simply caught off guard by the Croatians’ momentum and resistance.

Argentina, on the other hand, struggled from the opening seconds of the tournament. After the defeat in the first round, the very fact that La Albiceleste participate in the semi-finals – it is already a miracle, the toughest matches against Mexico and the Netherlands have hardened the team, and it is virtually impossible to surprise them with anything now.

For the next match, the Europeans are going to shut down all the routes to Livakovic’s goal and will be relying on the goalkeeper’s reaction when the opponents attempt penetrating breaks. Such not-so-spectacular tactics are paying off for Dalic: his boys conceded only three goals in 510 minutes.

And even though the super-attacking Brazilians were quite successful in cracking down the opponent’s defensive barricades, they still failed to get the ball into the net at the decisive moments. Argentina, on the other hand, have a real football magician — Messi, who will easily set his teammates up in one-on-ones with the Croatian goalkeeper. 

The 35-year-old star takes all the set pieces and converts them into scoring chances, continually looking to break into the box or whip in a long-range effort. And even after pulling the opponents on him, he can easily facilitate the ball in the teammate’s foot without looking. Against any team and in any match, he has chances — the only thing to worry about is finishing. And this is the exact thing that is difficult to do against the Balkans, as practice shows. The teams are unlikely to produce a goalscoring extravaganza.

Parimatch News staff prediction:

We say: Argentina will not lose and the match total will be less than 3.5 – Yes.

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