Messi to match Matthaus' World Cup record with start against Croatia

By Sports Desk December 13, 2022

Lionel Messi will match Lothar Matthaus' World Cup record of 25 appearances after the Argentina captain was, as expected, named in the starting XI to face Croatia.

Messi, whose six goal involvements in Qatar have only been bettered by France's Kylian Mbappe (seven), will hope to lead Argentina into the final by overcoming the 2018 runners-up at Lusail Stadium on Tuesday.

The 35-year-old is Argentina's joint-highest goalscorer in the competition with 10 goals and is one assist away from equalling Diego Maradona's record of eight at World Cup tournaments (since 1966).

He has both scored and assisted a goal in three different World Cup matches, including two at this tournament (vs Mexico and the Netherlands). Since 1966, no player has ever done so in four separate games.

Coach Lionel Scaloni made two changes to the team that featured from the off against the Netherlands.

With Marcos Acuna suspended, Nicolas Tagliafico was selected at left-back, while Leandro Paredes came into the midfield with defender Lisandro Martinez dropping out.

Zlatko Dalic, meanwhile, stuck with the side that started against Brazil on Friday.

That means Luka Modric will become only the fourth player aged 37 or over to start six matches at a World Cup, after Brazil's Nilton Santos in 1962, Italy's Dino Zoff in 1982 and England's Peter Shilton in 1990.

Modric was named in midfield alongside Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic. Andrej Kramaric retained his place up front, with Bruno Petkovic, who netted against Brazil, on the bench.

This is the third World Cup meeting between Argentina and Croatia, and the first in the knockout stages.

Argentina won 1-0 in 1998, before Croatia's 3-0 win in the 2018 edition in Russia.

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    Javier Mascherano labelled Argentina's controversial defeat to Morocco as "a scandal" in their opening game at the Paris Olympics. 

    Argentina looked to have rescued a point having come from two goals down when Cristian Medina headed home in the 16th minute of second half injury-time. 

    However, crowd trouble in the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard halted proceedings, with referee Glenn Nyberg taking both sets of players off the pitch. 

    The game was subsequently suspended for nearly two hours and once it resumed, the controversy and confusion continued. 

    Following a VAR review, Bruno Amione was adjudged to have been in an offside position in the build-up to the potential equaliser as Morocco's advantage was reinstated.

    The remaining three minutes of the contest played out in front of an empty stadium, with Tarik Sektioui's side able to hold on for an unlikely triumph. 

    The game finished more than four hours after it started, leaving Mascherano furious at full-time, describing the outcome as not befitting an event as prestigious as the Olympics.

    “The match was suspended for security and safety,” Mascherano began. “At no moment did we talk about the review. The official Olympic page put the match at 2-2.

    “The match was suspended for security. At no moment did we talk about the review. Then after we were not told anything new, we started to hear things.

    “The referee never came, he never gave us an explanation.”

    He added: “We turn the page and stay with the positive things from the team in the second half and look for the two wins we’re going to need.

    “What happened on the pitch was a scandal. This isn’t a neighbourhood tournament, this is the Olympic Games.

    “How are they going to stop the match seven times in the second half because someone comes onto the pitch?

    “The second and third time you have to take a decision. Seven times people came onto the pitch.”

    Lionel Messi, who won gold for La Albiceleste in Beijing in 2008, also shared his frustrations with his former Barcelona team-mate. 

    The 37-year-old kept it to the point, posting “Insolito” on his Instagram story, which translates to “unbelievable".

    Argentina face Iraq in their next game in Lyon on Saturday, concluding their group campaign against Ukraine on July 30. 

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    Morocco upset Argentina for a 2-1 victory in the teams' opening match at the Olympic Games, with the contest ending in chaotic fashion after a two-hour delay caused by crowd trouble.

    Morocco were on course for victory when Al Ain striker Soufiane Rahimi scored twice in a five-minute spell either side of half-time, before Giuliano Simeone halved the arrears for Argentina.

    Cristian Medina appeared to have equalised deep into stoppage time, but crowd trouble caused referee Glenn Nyberg to take the teams off the pitch before a VAR review could take place.

    It was ruled that Bruno Amione was offside in the build-up, and with the goal chalked off, the teams returned to play three further minutes in an empty stadium two hours later, Morocco holding on for a memorable win.

    Morocco inched ahead two minutes into first-half stoppage time, Ilias Akhomach bamboozling the Argentina defence with a wonderful backheel that allowed Bilal El Khannouss to cross for Rahimi to tap home.

    Within four minutes of the restart, Morocco had a chance to double their lead as the tricky Akhomach was pushed inside the area by Julio Soler. Rahimi stepped up to the spot and made no mistake, stroking his kick into the bottom-left corner.

    Javier Mascherano's team dragged themselves back into the contest with 22 minutes to play, though, as Soler's cross-shot was prodded in by the stretching substitute Simeone.

    It looked like Argentina had levelled 16 minutes into stoppage time as both Amione and Nicolas Otamendi struck the crossbar before Medina nodded home from almost on the goal line.

    However, some spectators then threw cups, bottles and pyrotechnics at the celebrating Argentina players, causing the teams to leave the field for almost two hours as fans were told to leave the stadium.

    With a VAR review ruling Amione was offside in the build-up to Medina's header, the game restarted at 2-1 to Morocco and the Atlas Lions clung on for a huge win.

  • Morocco beat Argentina as Olympic opener finished after VAR call and two-hour delay Morocco beat Argentina as Olympic opener finished after VAR call and two-hour delay

    Morocco were 2-1 winners over Argentina in their opening match at the Olympics, with Cristian Medina's potential equaliser disallowed as crowd trouble caused a two-hour delay. 

    Argentina looked to have salvaged a 2-2 draw from 2-0 down in Saint-Etienne, with Soufiane Rahimi netting twice before Giuliano Simeone pulled one back for La Albiceleste.

    Medina appeared to have equalised when he nodded home following a goalmouth scramble 16 minutes into second-half stoppage time, but crowd trouble then broke out with cups, bottles and pyrotechnics being thrown at Argentina's players by spectators.

    The referee took the teams off the pitch, and amid confusion over whether the final whistle had sounded, it was reported another three minutes would be played in an empty stadium.

    It was subsequently announced Argentina's potential leveller had been ruled out after a VAR review showed Bruno Amione was offside in the build-up.

    Another three minutes of stoppage time were then played out around two hours after the players had been taken off, with Morocco holding on to win 2-1.

    While Morocco now sit top of Group B with three points, Javier Mascherano's side – who were among the pre-tournament favourites – remain on zero. 

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