Lionel Scaloni insists Argentina will not change approach for World Cup semi-final

South Americans take on Croatia in last four having come through bruising match against Dutch that saw 16 yellow cards

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Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni said his side will not change their approach from the bruising quarter-final victory against the Netherlands when they meet Croatia in the final four on Tuesday.

The South American champions, seeking a third global title, came through a combative clash with the Dutch on Friday night, when they won on penalties at Lusail Stadium having initially lead 2-0 in normal time. There were 16 yellow cards in all, not to mention a couple of on-pitch melees, with Netherlands full-back Denzel Dumfries even sent off after the shoot-out.

Asked on Monday about the fallout of the quarter-final as he looked ahead to Croatia at the same venue, Scaloni said: "The previous game was played the way we had to play it — from both teams — and that's football.

“Some games can happen, there can be arguments. That's why there is a referee. We need to put an end to this idea of Argentina not being good winners. We won the Copa America in Brazil [last year] with the most sporting behaviour. I am not convinced by this idea. We need to show our pride.

“We won't change our way of thinking. Everyone knows this is a football match and we will give it all on the pitch. Sometimes luck can be with your side or not. It is a crucial match, especially for our people, but this is football and sometimes the best team does not win.”

In Croatia, Argentina go up against the side who defeated them convincingly in the previous World Cup. In Russia four years ago, the Europeans triumphed 3-0 in the group stage on their way to contesting the final for the first time. There, they lost to France.

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However, Scaloni played down the importance now of that group encounter with Croatia, saying: “We expect a tough match and it's against a really good team. They are a proper team; they play as a team and they will make things challenging.

“I don't think we can go into comparisons with the previous World Cup. But I am convinced they are a really good team. It will be a tough game.”

No doubt, should Argentina continue in their quest for the trophy, they will look towards Lionel Messi for inspiration. The captain, 35, is playing in what is expected to be his final World Cup — it represents his fifth overall — and has been key to his side’s semi-final run.

Messi has four goals in Qatar, second only to Kylian Mbappe's five.

On Monday, Argentina defender Nicolas Tagliafico said of the Paris Saint-Germain forward: “For us, he is our captain, our leader. He is the one pushing us, motivating us.

“He is a special advantage on the pitch; we know we have Lionel Messi and it is motivation for us. We are really happy to have Messi as our captain. We are all working together to achieve our dreams, and we can with Messi by our side.”

Updated: December 14, 2022, 7:03 AM