Messi against Modric, semi-final of legends

At the Lusail stadium, it will not be Messi’s thousand and first night, but the thousand and second match of his immense career (790 goals), crowned with all possible trophies… except the World Cup.

The seven-time Ballon d’Or, finalist in 2014, will find on his way to Qatar another legend of this game, himself Ballon d’Or (in 2018) and himself a finalist, four years ago: Modric.

“The selection and Messi in front of the decisive march”, headlined the front page of the Argentine daily Clarin on Tuesday.

And the whole planet is passionate about this duel between the two nations and their two N.10s: “Come and see the magicians”, invites the French sports daily L’Equipe, while its Spanish counterpart Marca predicts “a semi-final rated 10 /10” with “two cracks in search of their second world final”.

For the sesame of Sunday’s final to open in front of one, the other will necessarily have to go by the wayside. Which will come out of the lamp? Which will get to face either France or Morocco, opposed on Wednesday (8:00 p.m.) in the other semi-final?

“It’s going to be a very tough game,” Messi said. “Croatia have proven to be very good (…) and we have seen that, if we let them play, they have very good players who know how to take the ball, especially in midfield”.

Argentina is playing at home under the gilded Lusail stadium where it is playing its fourth match, carried by its thousands of supporters, and where it hopes to return on Sunday for the final (4:00 p.m.). But to achieve this, Messi, N.10 of the Albiceleste, must dominate Modric, N.10 of the Vatreni.

“Too skinny”

Between these two giants who culminate at 1.70 m, there have been many hot meetings over the course of their respective careers, in particular the FC Barcelona-Real Madrid clasicos when the Argentine striker from Paris SG still wore the blaugrana jersey. . In the World Cup, in their only confrontation, Croatia had largely beaten Argentina in the group stage in 2018 (3-0).

But the end of the story remains to be written.

The failure of 2014 against Germany (1-0 ap) was experienced with bitterness by “Leo”, crowned best player of a tournament which ended so badly for him. The small Argentine striker had even believed for a time to be cursed in selection, until reaching in 2021 the consecration of a first major trophy with the Copa America.

Same disappointment in 2018 for “Lukita”, beaten by France in the final in Moscow (4-2) but consoled a few months later with the Ballon d’Or. “An indescribable feeling” for the Croatian, who has always had a little revenge to take on his detractors.

“There is always a lot of skepticism about me, about my qualities, my style of play and my physique,” ​​he said in an interview with AFP in 2020. “It has been said that I was too weak to reach the top level, but this adversity does not affect me, it motivates me even more. »

The story will be beautiful

At 35 and 37, respectively, the vibrant Argentinian left-hander and the Croatian with the right velvet foot know that this is probably their last chance for planetary consecration, and that a defeat would end their World Cup careers… or even in selection.

But whoever wins, the story will be beautiful: either Messi will give himself a chance to equal the icon Diego Maradona, crowned in 1986, and offer a third star to Argentina; either Modric will have a second opportunity to bring a small country of less than 4 million inhabitants to the roof of the world.

Messi’s Argentina has its master to play (4 goals, 2 assists), his intense game and his many talents, from Angel Di Maria, restored, to Lautaro Martinez, not very in verve.

Modric’s Croatia, perfectly supported in the midfield by Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic, advance with “the best midfielder in the world”, according to their coach Zlatko Dalic, and an iron defense embodied by the experienced Dejan Lovren, the revelation Josko Gvardiol and the amazing goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.

In a tournament open to surprises, very clever who could designate a favorite… and predict what the moral of the story will be.

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