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Sport Preview: World Cup Semi-Finals - Tues 13th Dec

World Cup Semi Finals: Argentina v Croatia

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Argentina vs Croatia: Tues 13th Dec, 7:00pm

Argentina go into Tuesday’s semi-final as the bookies’ odds-on favourites against a Croatia side they will not underestimate.

The two met in the 2018 World Cup group stage with Croatia winning 3-0, but they are the big outsiders at a general 4/1 in 2022, according to the moneymen.

That looks too big a price for a side led by Luka Modric, whose advancing years are yet to catch up with him.

After backing Argentina to get to the final in our pre-tournament picks, siding with Croatia now looks like being the value selection.

Argentina have done little so far to justify the favourites tag against a side who reached the final in Russia. It could still be a repeat of the 2018 final if France and Croatia can win their semis.

Lionel Messi, who remains on track to win the Golden Ball – as we suggested pre-tournament – has shown glimpses of genius, not least in setting up Argentina’s first goal against the Netherlands and then scoring from the spot.

La Albiceleste looked home and hosed but somehow switched off to allow Burnley reject Wout Weghorst to score twice late on and push the game into extra-time and penalties.

That is a distinct possibility again, but given Croatia’s coolness from 12 yards, Argentina will not want to be dragged into another shootout.

Argentina have been ahead in every game so far, but they have struggled to see teams off. Saudi Arabia came back to beat them in their opening game and Australia went close to forcing a draw before the Netherlands hauled themselves level late on in the quarter-final.

Croatia have shown plenty of resilience in Qatar and after pegging back Brazil in extra-time and winning on penalties, Argentina will hold no fear for Zlatko Dalic’s men.

They beat Denmark and Russia on penalties en route to the final four years ago, and this year have come through shootouts against Japan and Brazil.

In fact it is 24 years since Croatia last won a World Cup knockout game in 90 minutes – a 3-0 win over Germany in the 1998 quarter-finals.

Dalic’s side is packed with experience and another foray into extra-time and penalties will not faze them.

A repeat of their confident showing against Brazil should be enough to see them level after 90 minutes – and Modric and Co seem to have a knack of getting the job done from there on in.

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