With a prestigious place in international football’s greatest showpiece on offer, both Argentina and Croatia got off to a cagey start, with neither side taking a risk in order to create a chance.
Firstly, Enzo Fernández played Álvarez through on goal with an exquisite defence-splitting pass, and the forward collided with an onrushing Dominik Livaković, resulting in an Argentina penalty.
The goal truly fired the Albiceleste up, and they doubled their lead minutes later to all but extend the nation’s incredible unbeaten record in WC semi-finals.
A swift counter attack from a Croatia corner saw the Argentines burst forward, with Álvarez picking the ball up on the halfway line and running into the opposition box with a couple lucky deflections falling his way.
Knowing they had to drastically change their approach, Croatia committed a lot more men forward at the start of the second half.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the battle was over in the 69th minute thanks to another moment of pure magic from countering master Messi, who dribbled in and around Joško Gvardiol, before squaring the ball to Álvarez, who tapped in his second of the night from close range and confirmed Argentina’s place in the WC final.