The first semi-final of the Qatar World Cup has been set up. Croatia will face Argentina, both teams having come through their quarter-finals via penalty shootouts. It is a match sure to be billed as Luca Modric vs Lionel Messi, and to judge by their respective performances in the knockout rounds so far, that wouldn't be unfair.
When is Argentina vs Croatia
This is the first of the semi-finals. It's on Tuesday 13 December, at the Lusail Stadium. The second semi-final is the following day at Al Bayt Stadium.
What time is kick-off?
Perfectly timed for the UK audience, the match starts at 7pm.
What TV channel is it on?
This is to yet to be thrashed out between ITV and BBC, but either way the contest will be on free-to-air television in the UK.
How have Argentina fared so far?
Emiliano Martinez put on a penalty-saving masterclass as Argentina beat the Netherlands in a shootout to settle a thrilling World Cup quarter-final.
After Lionel Messi lit up Lusail Stadium to score and assist, Argentina seemed to be coasting to a semi-final clash with Croatia, only for Wout Weghorst to hit a brace and seal a remarkable 2-2 draw.
Aston Villa stopper Martinez then took centre stage, saving from Virgil van Dijk and Teun Koopmeiners as the Dutch fell on penalties to Argentina in a repeat of the 2014 semi-final.
Earlier in the tournament Argentina beat Australia 2-1 in the quarter-final. That match marked a return to form after a relatively scratchy group stage that started with a shock defeat to Saudi Arabia, followed by 2-0 victories over Mexico and Poland.
What are Argentina saying?
Messi celebrated the quarter-final victory with arms aloft in front of the massed ranks of Argentina fans, his hopes of securing football's biggest prize at the fifth attempt intact for a few more days.
"Argentina are among the four best teams in the world because we show that we know how to play every game with the same desire and the same intensity," said the seven-times Ballon D'or winner. "A lot of joy, a lot of happiness. We didn't have to go to extra time or penalties, we had to suffer. But we got through and it's impressive."
How have Croatia got on so far?
Luka Modric's quest for a World Cup title continues unabated. Modric converted one of the penalties as Croatia knocked Brazil out of the World Cup, beating the five-time champions 4-2 in a shootout to reach the semi-finals for the second straight time.
Neymar tied Pele's record for most goals for the national team, giving Brazil the lead in extra time. But he wasn't among the four Brazilian players to take a penalty in the shootout, instead reduced to tears on the field at Education City Stadium while the red-and-white clad Croatians celebrated.
Croatia have only won one of their five games so far in regular time. They drew their opening match against Morocco 0-0, then beat Canada 4-1. The final game of their group was another 0-0 stalemate, against Belgium. In the last 16, Croatia needed penalties to overcome Japan and repeated the trick against Brazil.
What is Argentina and Croatia's results history?
These teams have met only five times before, all in the past 30 years. In friendlies, they drew 0-0 in 1994, Croatia won 3-2 in 2006 and Argentia won 2-1 in 2014.
At the World Cup Croatia lost 1-0 to Argentina in the group stages in 1998. The two teams met again in Russia in 2018, when Croatia beat them 3-0 in the group stage.
What is Argentina's World Cup record?
Argentina have been World Cup winners on two occasions: 1978 and 1986. The latter, won in Mexico is one of the most iconic triumphs in the tournament’s history with La Albiceleste captained by Diego Maradona, who was at the height of his powers.
In the midst of his successful seven-year spell with Napoli, he created five and scored five, including the infamous Hand of God goal and the mazy 60-yard run later voted ‘Goal of the Century’ in a 2-1 quarter-final win over England.
They also finished runners-up in both 1990 and 2014, losing to Germany, in one form or another, in the final on both occasions.
What is Croatia's World Cup record?
Croatia have qualified for all but one of the World Cup tournaments held since their independence – South Africa 2010 – and their appearances are bookended by their standout finishes: third place at France 1998, which made them the highest-finishing debutants since Eusebio's Portugal in 1966, and runners-up at Russia 2018.
Modric was awarded the Golden Ball for best overall player of the tournament, with his performance in Russia contributing to his Ballon d'Or win later that year.
Defenders Marcos Acuna, a starter, and Gonzalo Montiel, who came of the bench against the Netherlands, are suspended because of bookings, limiting coach Lionel Scaloni's options at the back.
One-time Manchester City target Nicolas Tagliafico could come on to replace Acuna but it will be a less attacking formation, with the Sevilla wingback having added more spark to the team.
Croatia have no players suspended and no injury concerns following the return of defender Borna Sosa in the quarter-final.
Super-sub Bruno Petkovic, who scored the equaliser against Brazil, could earn back his starting spot over Andrej Kramaric while Mario Pasalic is expected to keep his in attack.
Argentina to win 5/6
Croatia to win 9/2