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Today at the World Cup: Argentina gear up for crunch Croatia clash

Lionel Messi will be looking to keep his World Cup dream alive.

Argentina’s Lionel Messi during a training session on Monday
Argentina’s Lionel Messi during a training session on Monday

Argentina and Croatia geared up for their showdown on Tuesday in the first of the semi-finals, while preparations also continued for the France-Morocco clash that follows 24 hours later.

Here, the PA news agency looks at how Monday unfolded at the World Cup in Qatar.

Scaloni defends his men

Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni during a press conference on Monday (Adam Davy/PA).
Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni during a press conference on Monday (Adam Davy/PA).

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

After triumphing 4-3 in the shootout Scaloni’s players were quick to goad their opponents. 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 told a press conference on Monday: “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.”

Messi set to equal record

Lionel Messi is set to make his 25th World Cup appearance on Tuesday (Adam Davy/PA).
Lionel Messi is set to make his 25th World Cup appearance on Tuesday (Adam Davy/PA).

Lionel Messi, playing 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.

Scaloni said of the 35-year-old Argentina 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”

Croatia seek ‘greatest’ moment

Croatia players celebrate after beating Brazil on penalties (Mike Egerton/PA).
Croatia players celebrate after beating Brazil on penalties (Mike Egerton/PA).

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

Raphael Varane in action for France (Nick Potts/PA).
Raphael Varane in action for France (Nick Potts/PA).

Tuesday’s winners will play either defending champions France or surprise package Morocco, who meet on Wednesday, in Sunday’s final.

Looking ahead to the meeting with Morocco – 1-0 victors over Portugal in the last round – 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.”

Klinsmann on England

Former Germany striker Jurgen Klinsmann (Nick Potts/PA).
Former Germany striker Jurgen Klinsmann says England are ‘still a team in growth’ (Nick Potts/PA).

Former Germany striker Jurgen Klinsmann has offered his take on England following their 2-1 quarter-final loss to the French on Saturday.

Klinsmann, the 1990 World Cup winner who now sits on FIFA’s Technical Study Group, said: “It’s still a team in growth. I think with this team it is still able to get better over the next few years. They have a lot of talent coming through, getting better, getting more experienced.

“I think this was a very positive tournament, even if it’s already ended in the quarter-finals. So there’s more to come from this England side, in my opinion.”

Tweet of the day

Picture of the day

Messi looking relaxed during an Argentina training session in Qatar on Monday (Nick Potts/PA).
Messi looking relaxed during an Argentina training session in Qatar on Monday (Nick Potts/PA).

Up next

Semi-final

Tuesday, December 13

Argentina v Croatia (1900GMT, ITV1)

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