It’s time for the first semi-final of Qatar 2022. Early morning Wednesday (India time), the runners-up of the last edition of the World Cup, Croatia will take on two time champions Argentina, who are eyeing their first title since 1986 and also the first one for their superstar player and captain, Lionel Messi.
If Argentina win, they will be one step closer to the title that has eluded them for the last 36 years, while if Croatia win they would have accounted for the two big South American heavyweights in this edition – Brazil and Argentina and will enter a second successive World Cup final. In 2018, they lost to eventual champions, France. Argentina last played a World Cup final in the 2014 edition, when they lost to eventual champions, Germany.
Both teams entered the semi-finals with penalty shoot-out wins in the quarters. There were a record 17 yellow cards in the ill-tempered Argentina vs Netherlands quarter-final.

Ahead of the big Croatia vs Argentina game TimesofIndia.com takes a look at the Head to Head between these two teams, key stats, predicted starting line-ups and more:
What: FIFA World Cup 2022 First Semi-Final
Teams: Croatia and Argentina
FIFA Rankings – Croatia – 12; Argentina – 3
Where: Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail, Qatar
Kick-Off Time: 12:30 AM IST, Wednesday, December 14

fifa semi final linup

Key Stats:
– Argentina have never lost a World Cup semi-final. They have progressed to the final every time they have made the last four
– Argentina are playing their sixth World Cup semi-final
– Croatia are playing their third World Cup semi-final
– The last time Argentina were in the final was in the 2014 edition, when they lost to Germany
– The last time Croatia were in the final was in the last edition in 2018, when they lost to France
– Argentina last won the World Cup title in 1986, with Diego Maradona as captain
– Croatia have never won the World Cup title
– Croatian goal-keeper Dominik Livakovic has 19 saves so far to his name and is second on the list of most saves at Qatar 2022
– Lionel Messi is joint second (with Olivier Giroud) in the race for the Golden Boot, with 4 goals so far
– Croatia are unbeaten in 11 matches
– Only three teams have reached consecutive World Cup finals – Germany, Italy and The Netherlands
– Argentina full-backs Marcos Acuna and Gonzala Montiel are suspended for the semi-final vs Croatia thanks to cards they picked up in the quarter-final clash vs The Netherlands
– Argentina have only 1 win in last 7 matches against European opposition at the World Cup
– Lionel Messi has scored in 4 of Argentina’s 5 matches so far at Qatar 2022
– Argentina lost their opening group stage match in this edition to Saudi Arabia

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Head To Head (Overall):
Matches Played: 5
Won by Argentina: 2
Won by Croatia: 2
Draws: 1
Goals Scored – Croatia – 7; Argentina – 5
Head To Head (In FIFA WC):
Matches Played: 2
Won by Argentina: 1
Won by Croatia: 1

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The 2 previous World Cup meetings (Both Group Stage matches):
June 1998: Argentina beat Croatia 1-0, with a goal by Left-back Mauricio Pineda in the 36th minute
June 2018: Croatia beat Argentina 3-0, with goals by Rebic, Modric and Rakitic (Most recent encounter)
Predicted Starting XIs:
Argentina:
Damien Emiliano Martinez (GK); Nahuel Molina (defender); Nicolas Otamendi (defender); Cristian Romero (defender); Nicolas Tagliafico (defender); Enzo Fernandez (midfielder); Alexis Mac Allister (midfielder); Rodrigo De Paul (midfielder); Angel Di Maria (forward); Lionel Messi (forward); Julian Alvarez (forward)
Croatia:
Dominik Livakovic (GK); Josko Gvardiol (defender); Josip Juranovic (defender); Dejan Lovren (defender); Borna Sosa (defender); Luka Modric (midfielder); Marcelo Brozovic (midfielder); Mateo Kovacic (midfielder); Mario Pasalic (midfielder); Andrej Kramaric (forward); Ivan Perisic (forward)
Road to Semi-Finals:
Argentina:
League Stage:
– Lost to Saudi Arabia 1-2
– Beat Mexico 2-0
– Beat Poland 2-0
Round of 16:
– Beat Australia 2-1
Quarter-Final:
– Beat The Netherlands 4-3 on penalties after a 2-2 draw

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Croatia’s Ivan Perisic and Argentina’s Lionel Messi. (AFP Photo)
Croatia:
League Stage:
– Drew with Morocco 0-0
– Beat Canada 4-1
– Drew with Belgium 0-0
Round of 16:
– Beat Japan 3-1 on penalties after a 1-1 draw
Quarter-Final:
– Beat Brazil 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw
Best Finish:
Argentina
Champions: 1978, 1986
Croatia:
Runners-Up: 2018





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