It’s often said that the brightest stars make the biggest plays in the biggest moments. The Big Time Player theory, you could call it.
At Lusail Iconic Stadium in Qatar, Argentinian forward Lionel Messi shined his brightest when the country needed him the most, scoring a goal and assisting on another in Argentina’s 3-0 victory over Croatia in the 2022 FIFA World Cup semifinals.
Messi was assertive, dominant, and picked his spots with supreme precision, like a man possessed. In a duel with another longtime soccer legend in Croatian midfielder Luka Modric, Messi took advantage.
His assist on Julian Alvarez’s second goal was a thing of beauty, a run and pass that will be discussed long after this World Cup ends. Messi gets the ball on the right side of the pitch, fakes a spin one way and spins toward the goal, before getting his head up and finding Alvarez, who puts the ball in the net. An emphatic goal to seal an emphatic win for the Argentinian side.
This fan-captured angle shows Messi in all of his brilliance.
Here’s how it looked on TV.
Messi also scored the opening goal on a penalty. Croatian goalie Dominik Livakovic fouled Argentinian player Julian Alvarez in the penalty box, giving the Argentinian side a chance to go up early. Nobody else else but Messi would take the shot, drilling it into the top right corner to give Argentina an early lead.
With that goal, Messi became the top goalscorer in Argentinian men’s FIFA World Cup history, with 11 goals in 25 games, passing Gabriel Batistuta. Messi already held the record for most total goals wearing the striped baby blue and white, but this one just felt more meaningful.
Alvarez also scored before the first half on a beautiful run. Him and Messi have been arguably the most dynamic pair of teammates at this World Cup.
The 3-0 win puts Argentina in the final for the first time since 2014, in what could be Lionel Messi’s final World Cup participation ever. If it is Messi’s final run at the World Cup, what a run, exemplified by this masterful game.