David Adán


Argentina are favourites, but Croatia don't know when they're beaten


Croatia have been one of the revelations of the World Cup. They out-qualified Belgium in the group stage, and beat Brazil in the quarter-finals.

They’re a hugely compact unit, with  the perfect blend between veterans and highly talented youngsters. Luka Modric is their undisputed leader.

Against Brazil, Croatia played the eighth extra time in their last nine major-tournament knockout ties. It really is quite some stat.

It all began at Euro 2008, where  Turkey beat them on penalties in the quarters. Since then, it’s been one  extra time after another.

At Euro 2016, Croatia suffered an extra-time defeat to Portugal in the last 16, but at World Cup 2018, they got to like the additional half hour.

They beat both Denmark and Russia on penalties, before an extra-time victory over England in the semi-finals.

And at the World Cup in Qatar,  Croatia have remained extra-time experts, starting with a last-16  triumph over Japan on penalties.

Against Brazil in the last eight, the Croats also won spot-kicks, having pegged the tournament favourites back in the final minutes of extra time.

Led by a stellar Lionel Messi,  Argentina are favourites to reach the final. But how do the Albiceleste fare when it goes to penalties?

At the World Cup, Argentina have  won five shootouts and lost just  one, against Germany in 2006.  They can handle the pressure.

In an ill-tempered tie against the Dutch, Acuña and Montiel both picked up yellows that bring a ban. They’re important full-backs for Argentina.

In the Croatian media, there is talk that Argentina are preparing a “dirty”, “rotten” game plan to win Tuesday’s semi-final at Lusail Stadium.

“The Argentines know how to play dirty. That wouldn’t be a surprise - many who have faced them at World Cups have experienced the same.”

It’ll be a no-holds-barred clash as Croatia chase a second straight World Cup final spot and Argentina bid to fulfil Messi’s destiny.