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Argentina vs Croatia: Lionel Messi and Julian Alvarez start as team news is confirmed

Lionel Messi takes centre stage in Argentina’s World Cup semi-final against Croatia as he is joined by Julian Alvarez in attack… while Leandro Paredes starts over Angel Di Maria and Lisandro Martinez misses out

Lionel Messi has inspired Argentina to the World Cup semi-finals, and the forward once again takes centre stage tonight against Croatia. 

The 35-year-old starts alongside Julian Alvarez, who has been picked ahead of Lautaro Martinez despite the striker scoring the winning penalty against Holland last week. 

Angel Di Maria was fit enough only for the bench in Argentina’s quarter-final win, and despite an impressive cameo against Holland the 34-year-old remains on the bench, with Leandro Paredes starting instead. 

Lionel Messi will look to inspire Argentina to the World Cup final as he starts against Croatia

The South American outfit switched to a back three against Holland, with Manchester United’s Lisandro Martinez joining Cristian Romero and Nicolas Otamendi in defence. They have reverted to a back four tonight, however, with Martinez dropping out. 

Meanwhile, Marcos Acuna is suspended having picked up his second yellow card of the tournament in Argentina’s win over Croatia, with Nicolas Tagliafico therefore starting at left-back from the off. 

Right-back Gonzalo Montiel is also suspended, but Nahuel Molina is the first choice regardless and is as expected in the starting lineup. 

Confirmed Argentina XI: Martinez, Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Tagliafico, Paredes, Enzo Fernandez, De Paul, Mac Allister, Messi, Alvarez

Croatia boss Zlatko Dalic will again turn to his star names Luka Modric (L) and  Ivan Perisic (R)

Croatia boss Zlatko Dalic will again turn to his star names Luka Modric (L) and  Ivan Perisic (R)

As for Croatia, Zlatko Dalic is expected to once again turn to his star names Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic and Mateo Kovacic for the clash. 

Inter Milan midfielder Marcelo Brozovic, who has enjoyed a fine tournament, breaking his own World Cup record of the most distance covered by a player in their last-16 win Japan, is also expected to remain in the side. 

Brozovic covered an astonishing 16.7km over the 120 minutes – more than 10 miles – before also scoring his penalty. 

Argentina and Croatia are battling for a place in Sunday’s final, where they will meet either France or Morocco, who square off tomorrow night. 

The loser of tonight’s clash will instead play in Saturday’s third-place play-off, which starts at 3pm GMT.