Messi opened the scoring from the penalty spot after Julian Alvarez was fouled by Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livaković and set up Argentina’s third goal for the Manchester City striker with an impressive run and cross.
In between, Álvarez scored a great solo effort as Argentina prepared a return to Lusail Stadium to face either France or Morocco in Sunday’s World Cup final.
“Sometimes, as Argentines, it might seem that, of course, we say [Messi is the greatest of all time] because we are Argentines”, said Scaloni afterwards. “And maybe we are selfish, maybe it is something you say as an Argentine.
“But I have no doubt. I’ve been saying this for a long time, along with my technical stuff. And I have every privilege: I’m honored to be able to coach him, to watch him play.” And it’s something exciting, because every time you see him play it’s a great source of motivation for his teammates, for the people of Argentina and for the whole world. So there is nothing more to say about Messi, it is a privilege. have it in this template”.
Messi, who was named man of the match, later praised Argentina’s “intelligence” and preparation, saying they knew Croatia would keep the ball, but it could be exploited on the counter-attack.
“This is a very wise team,” he said. “We know what to do in every second of the game. We knew that the Croats would have possession of the ball, but we knew that this could be our strong point. Sometimes they mess up when they lose the ball and leave a lot of space.
“The previous game was a great sacrifice and we went to extra time. It was not easy.
“Today we were tired but we pulled our strength to be the strongest [as possible] and win this victory.
“We played very well. We knew that we would play this way. We prepared a lot because we knew that they would not have the ball because we would have to run in this match and then take our chances. So, as I say, I think we prepared this match in a very good way, like we always do.
“And, personally, I can say that I feel very happy in this whole World Cup. I’m enjoying it a lot and luckily I can help my whole team to make things happen.”
Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic described Argentina’s first goal as “very suspicious”, questioned the penalty decision and believed his team should have been awarded a corner in the build-up.
Dalic confirmed that he wanted to stay in office and end his contract until after the next European Championship in the summer of 2024. .