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World Cup Final LIVE: Argentina beat France on penalties

The bet365 News Team brings you the reaction from the World Cup final following Argentina's penalty shootout win over France.

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22:30 - Goodnight!

And breathe! 

What a final. So often low-scoring, low-drama events, this World Cup final had it all, with Lionel Messi cementing his status as the greatest football of all time. 

His penalty gave Argentina the lead, before he was instrumental in the second with a flick that few people would’ve even seen never mind pulled off. 

France were 2-0 down at half-time with Didier Deschamps making two changes before the break. Les Bleus looked grossly out of sorts, not registering a shot on target until Kylian Mbappe’s penalty in the 80th minute gave them a lifeline. 

And with Argentina looking scattered, Mbappe scored arguably the goal of the tournament moments later to force extra time. 

Argentina picked themselves up off the canvas with Messi scoring his second of the game, before Mbappe followed Sir Geoff Hurst as the second man to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final. 

But it wasn’t to be enough, with La Albiceleste scoring a perfect four from the spot to secure a third star. 

Thank you for joining us throughout an unforgettable tournament.

18:40 - Ante-post backers celebrating

Ante-post backers were rejoicing as La Albiceleste secured a third star with their penalty shoot-out win over France. 

"I said anybody but South America before the tournament and they've ended up with nearly a clean sweep of trophies," said bet365's Steve Freeth. 

"Well, Argentina have, with Lionel Messi winning the Golden Ball - denied the Golden Boot by Kylian Mbappe's 118th-minute penalty - and Emi Martinez claiming the Golden Glove. There was also some shrewd ante-post money on Enzo Fernandez for the FIFA Young Player Award in what has been a good tournament for ante-post backers."

18:15 - Word from the Trading floor...

The World Cup final saw Argentina throw away a two-goal lead – again, after the quarter-final with the Netherlands. Not that their fans will care, but it looks to be a costly one for the Traders… 

bet365’s Steve Freeth said: "What is it with Argentina and 2-0 leads?! I’m starting to think that the person that said a 2-0 lead is the most dangerous in football is right. 

"They’re not of course, but Argentina have cost us a few quid on that front this tournament thanks to our 2 Goals Ahead Early Payout Offer. 

"In fact, coupled with the Messi/Mbappe Super Boost, the losses are well into eight figures this afternoon.

"The pre-match chat was all about the showdown between Messi and Mbappe and boy did they deliver, much to the joy of their hordes of backers. 

"While Anytime Goalscorer backers - and Messi 1st Goalscorer backers - had their bets settled as winners inside the 90 minutes, those on an Mbappe hat-trick or Messi brace saw their bets settled as winners paid out in Bet Credits, thanks to our Extra Time Extra Chance offer."

As well as the above, here are other winning bets settled in extra time that will be paid out as Bet Credits:

o Messi extra Shot on Target
o Mbappe extra Shot on Target
o Mac Allister extra Shot on Target
o Paredes to be Booked 
o Montiel to be booked

17:58 - ARGENTINA WIN THE WORLD CUP!

17:55 - Penalty Shootout

Mbappe - GOAL - Emi Martinez gets one hand on the penalty but it squeezes in

Messi - GOAL - Calm as you like from the magician

Coman - SAVED - Martinez saves low to his right

Dybala - GOAL - Roma man rolls the ball down the middle

Tchouameni - MISSED - Midfielder skews effort wide of the target

Paredes - GOAL - Argentine enforcer drills it bottom left

Muani - GOAL - Impressive substitute blasts it down the middle

Montiel - GOAL - Defender secures glory for his country!

ARGENTINA WIN 4-2 ON PENALTIES!
 

17:44 - We go to penalties...

After 120 minutes of unrelenting drama in this World Cup Final between Argentina and France, the 22nd edition of football's most famous competition will be decided via penalty kicks...

How's your nerves folks?
 

17:38 - GOAL! Argentina 3-3 France (Mbappe)

World Cup Goal

Just when you thought Argentina had sealed this World Cup Final, France have struck back again!

It's a hattrick for Kylian Mbappe! The 23-year-old makes no mistake from the spot for the second time in this match to go clear in the Golden Boot standings once more, after Gonzalo Montiel was penalised for a handball in the box.

The drama of the Qatar World Cup rumbles on...

Bet In-Play on Argentina v France
 

17:30 - GOAL! Argentina 3-2 France (Messi)

World Cup Goal

Messi has put Argentina in front in the World Cup Final!

Dramatic scenes at the Lusail Stadium as Lionel Messi scrambles home a rebound from a Lautaro Martinez strike, with onlookers in the stadium and football fans around the world agonisingly awaiting a VAR check for offside in the lead-up to the goal.

Messi's seventh goal of these finals stands though, and Argentina have the lead again in Qatar.

Are Argentina now destined for glory? Or are there yet more twists and turns to come in this World Cup?

Bet In-Play on Argentina v France
 

17:27 - 15 minutes left to play

The second half of extra time has begun in the World Cup Final in Qatar.

Argentina and France each have just 15 minutes to find a crucial goal or the World Cup will be decided by penalty kicks.

Bet In-Play on Argentina v France
 

17:22 - Half time in extra time

It's half time in extra time between Argentina and France, who remain level at 2-2 in the World Cup Final.

Can either side grab a famous late winner? Or are we heading for a nerve-wracking penalty shootout?

Bet In-Play on Argentina v France
 

17:15 - Extra time underway

Extra time in the World Cup Final between Argentina and France is underway in Lusail. Here are the latest Method of Victory odds:

Argentina:

Win in Extra Time - 10/3
Win after Penalties - 9/4

France:

Win in Extra Time - 3/1
Win after Penalties - 9/4

Bet In-Play on Argentina v France
 

17:06 - Extra Time Extra Chance

Extra Time

This match between Argentina and France going to extra-time means bet365's Extra Time Extra Chance offer can be redeemed by customers. Therefore, any pre-match bets in selected markets will be paid out in Bet Credits if they lost in normal time but go on to win in extra time. 

View Applicable Markets and Terms & Conditions
 

17:03 - Full-time (Argentina 2-2 France)

World Cup Full-Time

The World Cup that just keeps on giving...

With Argentina 2-0 up and on the brink of sporting immortality, France and their striking sensation Kylian Mbappe have clawed it level to force this World Cup Final into extra time.

The Argentines will now be forced to dig deep and replicate their efforts against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals, when they too squandered a two-goal lead before reigning supreme on penalties. France are a different proposition to the Dutch, however, and have looked significantly stronger for the introductions of Randal Muani, Marcus Thuram and Kingsley Coman in attack.

Extra time awaits at the Lusail Stadium.. will it be Argentina or France who emerge victorious?

Bet In-Play on Argentina v France
 

16:52 - Latest odds To Win the Trophy

After a dramatic shift in the balance of this World Cup Final between Argentina and France, here are the latest odds To Win the Trophy:

Argentina - 8/11
France - 11/10

Bet In-Play on Argentina v France

Odds were correct at the time of writing and are subject to change or withdrawal at any time.
 

16:47 - GOAL! Argentina 2-2 France (Mbappe)

World Cup Goal

Oh my word...

France and Kylian Mbappe have turned this World Cup Final on its head! It's 2-2 at the Lusail Stadium!

The PSG striking sensation is now out on his own in the Golden Boot standings on seven after firing a devastating volley under Emi Martinez in the Argentina goal.

It's a bitter blow for Lionel Messi and Argentina who will now be forced to dig deep once more to salvage their World Cup dream.

It's now France who are in the ascendancy as Les Bleus go in search of a dramatic third goal.

Bet In-play on Argentina v France
 

16:43 - GOAL! Argentina 2-1 France (Mbappe)

World Cup Goal

Well well well....

France have found a goal out of nothing to get themselves back into this World Cup Final! It's star man Kylian Mbappe from the penalty spot.

Mbappe goes level with rival Messi on top of the goalscoring standings on six, after livewire Randal Kolo Muani was felled in the box by Argentina's Nicolas Otamendi.

Strap yourselves in for what is now set to be a tense conclusion to this match!
 

16:31 - Argentine threat on the break

Argentina have been slightly less dominant during this second half so far, seemingly happy to allow the French the ball and look to hurt them on the counter attack when they can.

Lionel Scaloni's men will be happy to see the clock keep ticking down in pursuit of the biggest prize in football, with France currently not offering them much cause for concern going the other way.

All it would take to blow this World Cup Final wide open would be for France to find a goal, however, just as Argentina themselves experienced in their quarter-final against the Netherlands when they threw away a two-goal lead against Louis van Gaal's side before winning on penalties.

Latest 3rd Goal market:

Argentina - 15/8
No 3rd Goal - 6/4
France - 15/8

Bet In-Play on Argentina v France

Odds were correct at the time of writing and are subject to change or withdrawal at any time.
 

16:19 - 3rd Goalscorer market

Here's a look at the latest odds in the 3rd Goalscorer market in this World Cup Final between Argentina and France:

Argentina:

Lionel Messi - 4/1
Julian Alvarez - 7/1
Alexis Mac Allister - 16/1
Angel di Maria - 16/1

France:

Kylian Mbappe - 5/1
Randal Muani - 9/1
Antoine Griezmann - 10/1
Marcus Thuram - 10/1

Bet In-Play on Argentina v France

Odds were correct at the time of writing and are subject to change or withdrawal at any time.
 

16:13 - Fancy a French upset?

It looks unlikely at the moment, with the French looking weak and beleaguered out there against an authoritative Argentina side, but you can get big odds on Les Bleus recovering to retain their World Cup title.

France are currently 40/1 to win this match in 90 minutes and 14/1 to Lift the Trophy.

Bet In-Play on Argentina v France
 

16:07 - Back underway

Argentina and France are back underway at the Lusail Iconic Stadium...

Will Lionel Messi and Co hold strong to secure a famous third World Cup triumph for their country? Or will Didier Deschamps' France manage to find a way back into the game?

Stay tuned to bet365's live blog for continued match updates and the latest betting markets.

Bet In-Play on Argentina v France
 

15:52 - Half-time (Argentina 2-0 France)

World Cup Half-Time

Wow...

Argentina take a two-goal lead into the half-time break in the World Cup Final following a dominant opening 45 minutes against an out-of-sorts French side.

The South Americans were able to make the breakthrough courtesy of a contentious penalty from their leader and talisman Lionel Messi, before the outstanding Angel Di Maria doubled their advantage following a sweeping team move involving their skipper and the tireless Alexis Mac Allister.

French boss Didier Deschamps' discontent at his team's performance has already been laid bare by his decision to make a double substitution prior to the half-time whistle, with both Olivier Giroud and Ousmane Dembele replaced by Marcus Thuram and Randal Kolo Muani, and there will need to be a vast improvement from Les Bleus during the second period if they are to have any chance of getting themselves back into this match.
 

15:42 - Double change for France

A sight none of us could have foreseen at kick off...

Didier Deschamps has taken drastic action in an attempt to drag his charges back into this match, making not one but two substitutions on the verge of half-time.

Ousmane Dembele and the country's all-time leading scorer Olivier Giroud have been replaced in attack by Marcus Thuram and Randal Kolo Muani.

Will these changes be able to revitalise Les Bleus? They're in desperate need of fresh impetus out there.

Bet In-Play on Argentina v France
 

15:35 - GOAL! Argentina 2-0 France (Di Maria)

World Cup Goal

Argentina are in dreamland in Lusail! It's 2-0 to La Albiceleste courtesy of Angel Di Maria!

It's a stunning team goal from the South Americans, with Lionel Messi and Alexis Mac Allister playing a neat give and go near the halfway line before the energetic Brighton midfielder slid the ball across to Angel Di Maria to fire past French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris at the back post.

The Argentine faithful are as ever in fine voice inside the stadium as their charges run all over the top of the French.

Do Didier Deschamps' men have any answer to this Argentine dominance? They look lost out there at the moment.

Bet In-Play on Argentina v France
 

15:22 - GOAL! Argentina 1-0 France (Messi)

World Cup Goal

Argentina draw first blood in the World Cup Final, and of course it's that man Lionel Messi!

The little magician has put his country ahead with an ice-cool penalty after Angel Di Maria was tripped by Ousmane Dembele in the box.

It looked a soft penalty award at first viewing, but La Albiceleste and their ardent supporters both inside the Lusail and back home in South America won't care.

How will Les Bleus respond to this early blow?
 

15:10 - Tense start to proceedings

It's been a bitty start to proceedings in the World Cup Final, with both sides guilty of a number of cheap fouls early on as they attempt to assert control of the match.

Argentina have perhaps been the livelier of the two sides, with La Albiceleste quick to gather possession in midfield and attempt to forge openings in the final third.

Let's see if this one opens up a bit...
 

15:00 - Underway in Lusail...

World Cup Kick Off

We are underway in the World Cup Final at the Lusail Iconic Stadium...

Will Lionel Messi shine on his date with destiny to lift the trophy for Argentina? Or will Kylian Mbappe and France become just the third team to retain the World Cup title?

It's very difficult to separate these two in what should be a tense and thrilling World Cup Final in Qatar. You certainly don't want to miss this one!

You can follow all of the unfolding action and latest betting markets right here with bet365's live World Cup blog.

Bet In-Play on Argentina v France
 

14:30 - Messi to make history?

The great Lionel Messi stands on the brink of breaking a plethora of records today as he gears up to take on France in the World Cup Final:

  • Most World Cup appearances - Messi will today surpass German icon Lothar Matthaus as the man with the most World Cup appearances of all time with 26.
  • Most World Cup minutes - Messi will go past Italian Paolo Maldini's record of 2,216 World Cup minutes played if he continues past the 23rd-minute mark today.
  • Most World Cup Goal Involvements - Should Messi register a goal or an assist today, he will break the record for World Cup goal involvements on 20. This would take the Argentine captain past Miroslav Klose, Gerd Muller and Ronaldo Nazario on 19.
  • Most World Cup Games with a Goal Involvement - Should Messi grab a goal or an assist v France, it would mark 13 World Cup matches in which he has registered a goal involvement. A 14th match would see him go one further than Brazil's Ronaldo Nazario.
  • Most Assists - An assist for Leo Messi in the World Cup Final today would see him break compatriot Diego Maradona's record of most assists in the competition, taking his total to 9.
  • Most World Cup wins - Should Messi and Argentina overcome France today, the PSG man would go level with Germany's Miroslav Klose on total World Cup match wins on 17.
  • First player to win multiple Golden Balls - Having won the Golden Ball at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after Argentina were defeated by Germany in the final, Messi could become the first player in history to win the award on two separate occasions in Qatar.
  • Scoring in every round - If Messi hits the net today, he would become the first player ever to score in every round of a World Cup finals - group stage, round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.
  • Most World Cup man of the match awards - Messi has been named man of the match in four of his six appearances at the Qatar World Cup. If he is named man of the match for a fifth time in the final he would break Wesley Sneijder's record set at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
  • Highest Shot Involvement - Messi's fellow Argentine Diego Maradona is largely credited as delivering the best individual performance at a World Cup tournament in 1986 as La Albiceleste were crowned champions in Mexico. In this competition Maradona broke the record for the highest percentage shot involvement for any team in World Cup history, involved in 56.4% of Argentina's shots. Up until this point in Qatar Messi has been involved in 56.3% of Lionel Scaloni's men's shots, meaning he is on course to break this unique record set by his predecessor Maradona.

Bet on Argentina v France
 

14:05 - World Cup Final Bet Boosts >>

Bet Boost

The 22nd World Cup Final between Argentina and France is almost upon us. Here are some pre-match Bet Boosts to cast your eyes over:

To Score Two or More Goals:
Lionel Messi
Was 15/2 >> Now 9/1

Score with a Header:
Olivier Giroud
Was 9/1 >> Now 11/1

Bet Builder:
Lionel Messi to Score Anytime in the Match
Argentina to Lift the Trophy
Cristian Romero - Over 1.5 Tackles in the Match
Was 4/1 >> Now 5/1

View all available pre-match Bet Boosts

Odds were correct at the time of writing and are subject to change or withdrawal at any time.
 

14:00 - Argentina v France team news

The team news is in for the World Cup Final between Argentina and France at the Lusail Stadium...

Argentina (4-4-2): Martinez, Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Tagliafico, Di Maria, De Paul, Fernandez, Mac Allister, Messi (c), Alvarez.

France (4-2-3-1): Lloris (c), Kounde, Varane, Upamecano, Hernandez, Tchouameni, Rabiot, Griezmann, Dembele, Giroud, Mbappe.

Bet on Argentina v France
 

13:50 - World Cup Final Super Boost >>>

Super Boost

Presenting bet365's World Cup Final Super Boost...

Kylian Mbappe - Over 0.5 Shots on Target
Lionel Messi - Over 0.5 Shots on Target in the Match
Was 4/6 >>> Now 6/4

Bet on Argentina v France
 

13:45 - Word from the trading floor...

bet365's Steve Freeth has had a look at some of the best and worst results ahead of the final from the Traders' point of view...

He said: "We're going against the narrative here but we’d like Lionel Messi to have an absolute stinker in the final with Argentina ideally being chinned in extra time with the game finishing 1-1 in normal time.

"We’d also take a 1-0 France win. There was plenty of money around for the great man before the tournament with him being punted from 16/1 in to 10/1 to finish as Top Scorer and from 12/1 in to 8/1 to win his second Golden Ball.

"Argentina have dominated our Outright liabilities for a quite a while now having been backed from 8/1 to 11/2 in the final few months leading up to Qatar. And they got as big as 9/1 after the surprise defeat to 22/1 shots Saudi Arabia."

"The worst case scenario would be Messi and Kylian Mbappe having a field day with goals and shots galore in a high-scoring game littered with cards – and I haven’t even mentioned our offers yet...

"Let battle commence!"

Bet on Argentina v France
 

13:15 - Extra Time Extra Chance

Extra Time

A reminder that today's World Cup Final between Argentina and France will be covered by bet365's Extra Time Extra Chance offer. This means pre-match bets in selected markets will be paid out in Bet Credits if they lose in normal time but go on to win in extra time. How it works:

  • Place a pre-match bet on selected markets on any fixture from the knockout stages of the World Cup.
  • If your bet fails to win in normal time but goes on to win in extra time, your bet will be settled as a winner and paid in Bet Credits.

View all Applicable Markets and Terms & Conditions
 

13:00 - Southgate stays

Slightly off topic, but there is some big international football news coming out of the England camp...

Gareth Southgate has confirmed he will be staying on as England manager to see his contract out to the end of Euro 2024.

While Southgate divides opinion amongst fans, it is undeniable he’s been the Three Lions’ most successful manager since Sir Alf Ramsey.

It’s hard to define success in football, certainly international football, but compared to those before him, Southgate has done a job no one could have expected in 2016.

Read the full article here
 

12:30 - Messi v Mbappe (The stats)

As far as the race for the Golden Boot is concerned, Messi’s favourite status is backed up by his tournament xG of 5.075 which is the highest in the whole competition.

Mbappe’s xG of 3.47 ranks him third amongst all World Cup players, behind teammate and fellow Golden Boot chaser Giroud in second on 3.532. Argentina’s Julian Alvarez is eighth in the xG standings on 2.425.

With regards to the Golden Ball, Messi’s three assists is the joint-highest in the tournament alongside France’s Antoine Griezmann, Portgual’s Bruno Fernandes and England’s Harry Kane.

Griezmann, who has shone for his country in an atypical box-to-box midfield role in Qatar, has the highest Expected Assists (xA) total in the competition on 2.9, ahead of Messi in second on 2.6.

The Atletico Madrid man also pips Messi on Key Passes, with his total of 20 the highest in the World Cup with Messi second on 18. Kylian Mbappe is joint-third for this metric on 11 alongside teammates Theo Hernandez and Ousmane Dembele.

Messi and Mbappe also come out on top when it comes to Successful Dribbles, with the Frenchman top of the tree on 21 with Argentina’s finest joint-second on 17 alongside Germany wonderkid Jamal Musiala.

Read the full article here
Bet on Argentina v France
 

12:00 - World Cup Final Key Battles

Ahead of today's World Cup final between Argentina and France, we take a look at the key battles where the match could be won and lost:

  • Lionel Scaloni v Didier Deschamps
  • Lionel Messi v Aurelien Tchouameni
  • Kylian Mbappe v Nahuel Molina
  • Olivier Giroud v Nicolas Otamendi

Read the full article here
Bet on Argentina v France
 

11:30 - Mark Langdon's World Cup Final tips

Mark Langdon, Head of Sport Content at the Racing Post, has provided his betting tips ahead of the World Cup Final between Argentina and France:

"The trend of low-scoring World Cup finals was ended by France four years ago and they could once again play their part in an entertaining clash against Argentina in a match where superstars Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi will go head-to-head.

"Between 1990 and 2014 the seven finals produced a total of eight goals in regulation time, with four of them going to extra-time and three of those finishing 0-0.

"However, France saw off Croatia 4-2 in Russia in 2018 and the fact Les Bleus and Argentina are so blessed in attack points to another shootout.

"Pick of the punts is Both Teams to Score at 19/20."

Read the full Mark Langdon betting preview here
Bet on Argentina v France
 

11:00 - Argentina v France Match Preview

Lionel Messi's Argentina take on holders France in the World Cup final and the well-matched rivals should put on a great show.

The betting suggests it will be a tight contest with both teams priced at 10/11 to Lift the Trophy while the draw is 21/10. but it is unlikely to be a dull game with so much attacking talent on the pitch.

Read the full Argentina v France Match Preview here
Bet on Argentina v France here
 

10:30 - Welcome!

Good morning and welcome to bet365's live coverage of the biggest day on the football calendar... the World Cup Final!

Today will see Argentina take on France at 15:00 at the Lusail Iconic Stadium in Qatar, with both countries aiming to be crowned world champions for a third time.

Argentina captain and talisman Lionel Messi has the chance to further cement his legacy as one of the greatest players of all time, against a France team who could become just the third nation in the competition's history to retain the World Cup title after lifting the trophy in Russia four years ago.

We will be following all of the live action in today's final, as well as publishing the latest odds markets, Bet Boosts and more, right here with our bespoke World Cup blog.

Bet on Argentina v France
 

Sunday 18th December:

19:30 - Goodnight!

That’s all from us for today, but ahead of Sunday’s final, we wanted to point you in the direction of some betting guidance from Steve Freeth and the Racing Post’s Mark Langdon. 

You can watch Steve’s Bet Builder here, and he’s predicting the two sides’ marquee players to see plenty of action in Lusail.

18:30 - Graham Hunter on Lionel Messi

It's getting harder and harder to make the case that Lionel Messi ISN'T the greatest player of all time, but one thing that many Argentinians still hold over Messi is that Diego Maradona took a less-than-stellar Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986, whereas Messi never has.

Messi had his first crack in 2014, with Germany edging out Argentina in extra time, and Sunday presents his best and final chance to finally emulate the great Diego Maradona.

Graham Hunter discusses Messi's pursuit for World Cup glory.

18:00 - Graham Hunter on Kylian Mbappe

While you could make a case that Antoine Griezmann has actually been France’s best player at the World Cup, there’s no taking away from Kylian Mbappe’s five goals.

In 2017, he announced himself on the European stage with Monaco and in 2018, he announced himself on the world stage with France.

Still a teenager, yet a bona fide superstar, Mbappe took Ligue 1 by storm after the World Cup, with 33 goals in 29 games, and since the 2018 World Cup, he’s scored 118 league goals in 129 games for PSG.

He’s now on the brink of World Cup history, and Graham Hunter discusses his performances in Qatar.

17:30 - All eyes on the final

And what a final we have in store.

The odds could hardly be closer, the Argentina shortening to slight favouritism at 7/4 while France are 9/5, and the pair are 10/11 each to Lift the Trophy.

On top of that, we've got Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe battling out for the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball.

In terms of Top Goalscorer betting (settled purely on number of goals, with dead heat rules applying), Messi is marginal favourite at 10/11 while Mbappe is 21/20.

But don't discount Olivier Giroud and Julian Alvarez, with both finding the net on four occasions.

Meanwhile, Messi's continuously talismanic performances have seen Argentina reach the final, and his price for the Golden Ball cut to 1/5, but Mbappe - 11/2 - could enter the reckoning with a big performance in the final. 

You can hear the thoughts of Steve Freeth on the two awards here.

16:54 - Full time - Croatia 2-1 Morocco

World Cup Full-Time

While it would have been a lovely story, and perhaps fitting, to see Morocco finish third in the World Cup, Croatia have prevailed in the third-place play-off with a 2-1 win, ad it shouldn't be ignored how big an achievement that is.

They weren't dealt an easy group - indeed, facing Morocco - but got past them, and Japan, and Brazil, before finally coming unstuck against Argentina.

In their maiden World Cup in 1998, a Davor Suker-inspired Croatia finished third before reaching the final in 2018. 

By population, they’re smaller than the likes of Ireland, New Zealand and Costa Rica, but have punched well above their weight once again on the world stage and deserve all the plaudits.

16:32 - Morocco chance!

There's a quarter of an hour left and Morocco haven't quite threatened as they did in the first half, while the experience of Croatia looks to be seeing them through the game.

Croatia have just had a chance to wrap the game up with Gvardiol being caught from behind after a surging run, going down in the area but the referee has strangely waved the penalty away, while Morocco themselves went up the other end and forced an impressive point-blank save from Livakovic.

There's a bit of life in this one yet.

It's still 8/11 that we'll see a fourth goal.

15:47 - Half-time - Croatia 2-1 Morocco

World Cup Half-Time

Well, anyone thinking with it 'only' being the third-place play-off, that neither side would be at full speed has been sorely mistaken. As have those who thought that the two rather sterile attacks would play out another low-scoring game.

It's been a very entertaining game of football with both sides threatening. We've seen three goals in the first half, and here's hoping we see more in the second.

Match Goals: 
Over 4.5 - 11/10
Under 4.5 - 8/11

15:42 - GOAL - Croatia 2-1 Morocco (Orsic)

World Cup Goal

With an unfamiliar amount of space opening up at the back, Croatia looked to take advantage and have done exactly that. 

Mislav Orsic from a tight angle opened his body up and just guided a wonderful curling effort above and beyond Bono, finding the inside of the post.

Another wonderful Croatian goal, and they lead 2-1.

15:08 - GOAL - Croatia 1-1 Morocco (Dari)

World Cup Goal

Well it's not quite as well worked a set piece as Croatia's but equally effective!

A ball swung in from out wide is glanced high into the air towards goal, with Achraf Dari there to head home from close range - anything your centre-back can do, ours can do just as well!

We have a game on our hands!

15:06 - GOAL - Croatia 1-0 Morocco (Gvardiol)

World Cup Goal

It is absolutely brilliant by Croatia. A set piece so well worked you just have to stand up and admire it.

Luka Modric is the decoy over the free-kick, which is delightfully floated in to Ivan Perisic, who heads into the centre of the area, for Josko Gvardiol planting a tremendous header just inside the post. Wonderful goal.

15:00 - Kick-off

World Cup Kick Off

The World Cup third-place play-off is underway!

14:55 - An ode to Luka Modric

Many smaller footballing nations have had marquee players who've carried them to great tournaments and even great generations. 

Pavel Nedved of the Czech Republic, Hristo Stoichkov of Bulgaria, Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Sweden. Luka Modric certainly falls into that bracket. While he's had talented players around him over the years, he's head and shoulders above his team mates. Croatia will likely never have another.

You don't always appreciate what you've got until it's gone, and when he does hang his boots up, you feel he'll truly be appreciated as he should be. File him alongside the likes of Xavi and Iniesta as the great diminutive playmakers of their generation.

Does he have one last great performance in him?

He's 9/4 to be named Man of the Match in what may be his last Croatia appearance.

14:00 - Croatia v Morocco Bet Boosts

Bet Boost

Youssef En-Nesyri, who climbed to a summit that would give pole vaulters a nosebleed with his header against Portugal, has been boosted from 12/1 to 16/1 to Score with a Header today, while Luka Modric, in what will surely be the 37-year-old's final World Cup game - and possibly his last game in a Croatia shirt - has been boosted from 11/1 to 14/1 to Score from Outside the Box.

See all Bet Boosts for Croatia v Morocco here.

13:45 - Croatia v Morocco team news

Croatia XI: Livakovic, Stanisic, Sutalo, Gvardiol, Perisic, Modric, Kovacic, Majer, Kramaric, Orsic, Livaja.

Morocco XI: Bono, Hakimi, Dari, El Yamiq, Attiat-Allah, Amrabat, El Khannouss, Ziyech, Sabiri, Boufal, En-Nesyri.

12:00 - Croatia v Morocco preview

"There is little doubt that the third-place playoff is the strangest of the 64 games that are played at a 32-team World Cup. 

"Firstly, neither team wants to be playing in it. It is only a few days after the huge disappointment of losing a semi-final and at times little credence is placed on finishing third. All they want to do is get it over and done with and head to the airport. 

"However, there is a decent chance that this year's might not follow that pattern as both Croatia and Morocco would view finishing third as a huge achievement. 

"As a young country that featured for the first time in a World Cup in 1998, national pride is a huge thing for Croatia so it is unlikely they will take things easy. They named a strong team when they beat the Netherlands in the third-place game on that occasion and it is difficult to see coach Zlatko Dalic not doing exactly the same. 

"And this is a huge landmark for Morocco too. They became the first African team to reach the semi-finals and gaining third spot would also be seen as a huge achievement, so we can expect them to put their heart and soul into it, followed by their massive collection of passionate supporters."

With three hours to go until kick-off, whet your appetite for today's third-place play-off with our preview.

11:30 - Croatia v Morocco tips

They upset the odds to get out of their group. They upset the odds to get past Spain. They upset the odds to beat Portugal. 

And if they are to finish third at the World Cup, Morocco have to upset the odds again, with Croatia slight favourites today, but the Racing Post’s Ian Wilkerson thinks that’s just what will happen, blunting the Croatian attack. 

Click here to read his tips for Croatia v Morocco.

11:00 - Welcome!

Good morning and welcome to the penultimate day of the World Cup! 

We'll have all the build-up to the third-place play-off between 2018 finalists Croatia and 2022 surprise packages Morocco as well as keeping one eye on Sunday's final between Argentina and France.

Friday 16th December:
 

16:00 - Mark Langdon's Argentina v France tips

Racing Post's Head of Sports Content Mark Langdon provides his tips ahead of Sunday's World Cup Final between Argentina and France:

"The trend of low-scoring World Cup finals was ended by France four years ago and they could once again play their part in an entertaining clash against Argentina in a match where superstars Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi will go head-to-head.

"Between 1990 and 2014 the seven finals produced a total of eight goals in regulation time, with four of them going to extra-time and three of those finishing 0-0.

"However, France saw off Croatia 4-2 in Russia in 2018 and the fact Les Bleus and Argentina are so blessed in attack points to another shootout.

"Pick of the punts is Both Teams to Score at 1/1."

Read the full article here
Bet on Argentina v France
 

15:00 - World Cup Final Bet Boosts >>

Ahead of a historic World Cup Final between Argentina and France on Sunday, bet365 have boosted a number of pre-match markets:

Correct Score:
Argentina 2-0 France
Was 12/1 >> Now 16/1

First Goalscorer:
Olivier Giroud
Was 7/1 >> Now 8/1

Bet Builder:
Both Teams to Score in the Match - Yes
Julian Alvarez to Score Anytime in the Match
Over 3 Goals in the Match
Was 15/2 >> Now 17/2

View all World Cup Final Bet Boosts
Read full article here
 

13:30 - World Cup Breakout Stars

The wait is nearly over, and the World Cup final in Qatar is now just days away. Despite the pre-tournament negativity, the action on the pitch has lived up to the hype, and all eyes will now be on Sunday's final.

While the majority of the build-up will focus on Lionel Messi as he prepares to lead Argentina, there have been several strong performances from other players that could soon find themselves the subject of big-money transfers as a result.

World Cups allow players to showcase their skills to a global audience, and we have picked out five players who have caught the eye in Qatar.

Read the full article here
Bet on the World Cup
 

12:00 - Liam Wilkerson's Croatia v Morocco tips

Ian Wilkerson tips

Racing Post football expert Ian Wilkerson provides his tips ahead of the World Cup third place play-off between Croatia and Morocco:

"Both Croatia and Morocco will be envious they are not involved in Sunday’s World Cup final, but it is likely they will still feel they have something to play for.

"The third-place play-off is seen by many as a waste of time and some coaches in the past have used it as an opportunity to field some of their fringe squad players who have not had the chance to experience playing at the World Cup.

"That does not seem likely this time. Croatia were beaten in the semi-finals of their first World Cup in 1998 and fielded a strong team against the Netherlands to claim third then, and their strong national pride dictates they should not take things easy.

"And victory for Morocco would be another landmark considering they were the first African team to reach the semi-finals and a full-scale effort will be demanded by the huge support they have received at the tournament.

"So, if we have established that neither team are holding back, the task is to conclude who is more likely to win and, although they are the outsiders in the match, it is perhaps Morocco who look the best value to finish third at 21/20."

Read the full article here
Bet on Croatia v Morocco
 

10:15 - Extra Time Extra Chance

Extra Time

A reminder that the final two matches of the World Cup in Qatar - the final and the third place playoff - will both be covered by bet365's Extra Time Extra Chance offer. This means pre-match bets in selected markets will be paid out in Bet Credits if they lose in normal time but go on to win in extra time.

How it works:

  • Place a pre-match bet on selected markets on any fixture from the knockout stages of the World Cup.
  • If your bet fails to win in normal time but goes on to win in extra time, your bet will be settled as a winner and paid in Bet Credits.

View Applicable Markets and Terms & Conditions

09:00 - Welcome!

Good morning and welcome to bet365's live World Cup blog, where we will be ramping up the build-up for Sunday's showpiece final between Argentina and France at the Lusail Stadium.

We are now just two days out from Lionel Messi's date with destiny as the Argentine captain aims to cap off his legendary career with the one prize which has always eluded him, but La Albiceleste face a tough task against the tournament holders France.

Kylian Mbappe has been the star for Les Bleus in Qatar, with the PSG forward aiming to become a world champion for the second time by the age of just 23.

Read our full Argentina v France Match Preview here
Bet on Argentina v France
 

Thursday 15th December:

16:30 - Croatia v Morocco Match Preview

It is the game that no team at the World Cup wanted to be playing in, but both Croatia and Morocco will hope they can end their Qatar experience on a high with victory in Saturday's third-place playoff.

Croatia were beaten 3-0 in their semi-final against Argentina on Tuesday while Morocco's spirited performance was not enough for them to avoid a 2-0 loss to defending champions France the following night.

The pair have already met in a Group F match at the tournament which ended in a goalless draw and neutrals will be hoping they will serve up a more entertaining spectacle when they meet at the Khalifa International Stadium.

Read the full Croatia v Morocco Match Preview here
Bet on Croatia v Morocco
 

16:00 - Benzema to make shock return for France?

With France booking their place in the World Cup final, the reigning champions could be handed a massive boost with the return of Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema.

A 2-0 victory over Morocco in the semi-finals on Wednesday means Les Bleus have made a return to the showpiece event after beating Croatia in the 2018 World Cup final in Russia.

With Argentina between them and a third world title, France could look to Benzema to make a shock return in the final on Sunday.

Read the full article here
Bet on Argentina v France
 

15:15 - Argentina v France Match Preview

Lionel Messi's Argentina take on holders France in the World Cup Final on Sunday and the well-matched rivals should put on a great show. 

The betting suggests it will be a tight contest with France 7/4 and Argentina 9/5 in the Full Time Result betting while the draw is priced at 2/1, but it is unlikely to be a dull game with so much attacking talent on the pitch.

Read the full Argentina v France Match Preview here
Bet on Argentina v France
 

14:00 - World Cup Fantasy update

Are you an avid Fantasy Football fan? Have you picked out which players you think will shine as the tournament approaches its conclusion?

With bet365 Fantasy Sports, you can build your World Cup squad and compete against others for Fantasy points. Your selections will gain points based on their real-world performances.

Here are some suggested Fantasy selections ahead of the final two matches of the World Cup - the Final and the third place playoff:

  • Emiliano Martinez (Goalkeeper)
  • Lucas Hernandez (Defender)
  • Luka Modric (Midfielder)
  • Lionel Messi (Forward)
  • Kylian Mbappe (Forward)

Read the full Fantasy update article here
Bet on the World Cup here
 

13:15 - World Cup Final All You Need to Know

The World Cup final is the pinnacle of the game and the 2022 edition takes place between Argentina and France in Lusail, Qatar this Sunday.

It will be the 64th and final game of the 22nd World Cup and will be held at the Lusail Iconic Stadium, the biggest venue being used for the Qatar Finals with a capacity of 80,000.

You can read all you need to know about football's biggest international match here

Bet on Argentina v France
 

12:00 - Breakout stars of 2022

The World Cup is always a chance for players to showcase their talents on the biggest stage of all, and there are always a handful who grasp the opportunity with both hands.

Read our article on the breakout stars of 2022 here.
 

Wednesday 14th December:
 

21:30 - Goodnight!

Morocco's journey came to an end, but they've lit up the tournament, while France, inspired by Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann, have made a second successive final.

They're slight favourites in the Outright market at 4/5 while Argentina are 1/1.

Of course, the World Cup final is much bigger than any two players, but Kylian Mbappe is a game away from a second World Cup at the age of 23, and we all know the stakes for Lionel Messi.

We'll have news, previews, tips and more on Thursday and Friday before full coverage of the third-place play-off on Saturday before the big one on Sunday.

20:54 - Full time - France 2-0 Morocco

World Cup Full-Time

It's a deeply disappointing exit for Morocco, who've been the team of the tournament in many ways.

But France, as they did in 2018, have found a way. They were excellent for large spells of the group games - at least the first two which secured their progression to the last 16 - but we've not quite seen the world beaters since. 

Perhaps that's testament to the team and their manager, that they can so often play within themselves but do enough to win. Remember in the 2018 World Cup final, they had just 38% possession against Croatia and scored four.

Argentina meanwhile have once again leant on the magic of Lionel Messi, who to be fair has been well supported by some of his supporting cast, namely Julian Alvarez.

It could be a classic final, and we'll have the build-up to that - as well as Morocco's third-place play-off game with Croatia - over the weekend.

20:38 - GOAL - France 2-0 Morocco (Kolo Muani)

World Cup Goal

The substitution makes an instant impact and surely sends France to the final!

Kylian Mbappe hasn't been at his destructive best tonight, but he's shown some brilliant footwork, weaving between defenders in the area before his deflected shot fell into the path of Randal Kolo Muani who tapped home from close range.

20:15 - Morocco knocking on the door

The Atlas Lions are getting more and more dangerous, getting balls across the six-yard box, and they're just missing that bit of quality and composure to find the net.

What they will be wary of though is France's quality, particularly on the break, knowing that a second goal will kill the game. 

Also, a word for their fans. They've been brilliant all tournament and are as vocal as ever tonight. They're reminiscent of the Iceland fans in 2016 but turned up to 11. Deafening noise.

20:04 - Mazraoui replaced

Noussair Mazraoui is the latest casualty in the Morocco backline. Another pre-match injury doubt, he's the third member of Morocco's defence that has failed to make it past half-time.

19:48 - Half-time - France 1-0 Morocco

World Cup Half-Time

It's half-time, and despite getting off to the worst possible start, Morocco must be feeling quietly confident at the break.

A corner which France fail to clear falls to Jawad El Yamiq, whose speculative overhead kick strikes the foot of the post with a little help from Lloris, who's having a really good tournament.

They may trail at half-time, but make no mistake, Morocco are very much in this.

World Cup Half-Time

19:35 - Morocco looking lively

It's been interesting to see how Morocco have adapted to going a goal behind - a position they haven't found themselves in all tournament - but, aside from forcing an impressive save from Hugo Lloris from distance, they haven't really carved out any real opportunities.

That said, they do attack with pace when the opportunities arrive, and with France inviting pressure on, it wouldn't be surprising to see them get a leveller.

Morocco are 9/4 to score the second goal.

19:22 - Saiss withdrawn

Morocco were walking wounded throughout large spells of their matches with Spain and Portugal, with Romain Saiss being stretchered off not a week ago, and with Nayef Aguerd being pulled from the lineup after the team sheets were announced, Saiss is the next defender to fall, with the Atlas Lions forced into an early chance.

19:20 - Giroud hits the post!

A slight blunder at the back - with Romain Saiss not looking close to full fitness - sees Olivier Giroud in behind, unleashing a fearsome volley which crashes off the post.

In all five of Morocco's games in the World Cup, they've ceded the majority of possession to their opponents, but they've actually had significantly more of the ball than France. 

France of course are no strangers to sitting off their opponents, especially after taking the lead, as we saw against England at the weekend. Didier Deschamps will no doubt want his side to play the role of counter attackers, while Morocco are suddenly forced to become more adventurous.

19:05 - GOAL - France 1-0 Morocco (Hernandez)

World Cup Goal

A nightmare start for Morocco but a dream start for France! And this is perhaps what Morocco haven't quite faced - a team with the likes of Antoine Griezmann, who's been outstanding all tournament, finding a pocket of space, and with Morocco scrambling to clear their lines, Theo Hernandez performs a semi-bicycle kick at the far post to put the world champions ahead.

How will Morocco respond?

19:00 - Kick off!

World Cup Kick Off

The second semi-final between France and Morocco is underway!

18:20 - France v Morocco tips

The Racing Post's James Milton has taken a look at tonight's game, and cites France's shaky defensive record as a reason for optimism for Morocco, but fancies the world champions to come through.

Click here to read James Milton's tips for France v Morocco.

18:00 - One hour to kick-off!

To think, we may be a few hours from Morocco knocking France out of the World Cup and reaching the final - and they're as short as 10/3 to do so.

Of course, despite facing Spain and Portugal - and being fully deserving of their semi-final place - tonight is their toughest test. But we've seen enough from them to know they have a very real chance, but we'll see a very different Morocco should they go a goal behind. 

Fingers crossed we've got another enthralling night of football ahead of us.

17:50 - France v Morocco Super Boost

Super Boost

We have a Super Boost for the second semi-final, with France to Qualify and Kylian Mbappe to have Over 0.5 Shots on Target boosted from 2/5 to 1/1.

17:45 - France v Morocco team news

France XI: Lloris, Kounde, Varane, Konate, Hernandez, Tchouameni, Fofana, Griezmann, Dembele, Mbappe, Giroud.

Morocco XI: Bounou, Hakimi, El Yamiq, Saiss, Aguerd, Mazraoui, Amrabat, Ounahi, Ziyech, En Nesyri, Boufal.

17:25 - France v Morocco preview

The second semi-final sees the world champions take on the biggest surprise packages of the World Cup, and indeed one of the biggest surprise packages of any World Cup.

Morocco were 250/1 before the tournament, and for context, Greece were 150/1 before Euro 2004, so that's the kind of upset we're looking at here.

Special mention to the Golden Glove favourite Bono. The Morocco keeper has been integral to the Atlas Lions' run to the semis, and having been 350/1 pre-tournament, he's as short at 11/8 now.

Read our preview of tonight's clash here.

16:30 - England next manager odds...

Amid growing speculation around Gareth Southgate's future, Brendan Rodgers has been installed as 4/1 favourite to be the Next England Manager. 

Despite a World Cup semi-final appearance in 2018 and a run all the way to the Euro 2020 final - England's first tournament final since 1966 - there have been calls in some quarters for Southgate to leave following the 2-1 defeat to France. 

Many may see it as harsh to sack England's most successful manager since Sir Alf Ramsey, but it may be a decision taken out of the FA's hands with Southgate potentially resigning, having suggested he may not have the energy for another tournament cycle. 

Should Southgate resign - or be dismissed - it would task the FA with finding their first manager since Sam Allardyce's 67-day reign came to an end in 2016.

Read the full article
View the latest odds on this market
 

14:30 - James Milton's France v Morocco tips

James Milton

"World champions France started the defence of their title under something of a cloud after a dismal 2022/23 Nations League campaign and injuries to senior players Karim Benzema, Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante. 

"In their opening group game, Les Bleus found themselves 1-0 down to Australia inside nine minutes but they roared back to win 4-1 and they were good value for that scoreline, as forwards Kylian Mbappe, Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele racked up 17 shots at goal between them. 

"That quartet has been a constant menace to France's opponents, with Mbappe scoring five goals, Giroud finding the net four times, and Griezmann flourishing in a deeper playmaker role. 

"France are 8/15 in the Full Time Result market with Morocco 7/1 and the draw 11/4 and it would take an extraordinary effort from the Atlas Lions to keep the favourites quiet for 90 minutes. 

"Morocco's forwards may be encouraged by the fact that their opponents have kept only one clean sheet in their last 11 matches. 

"France are 10/3 in the Result/Both Teams To Score market and they have conceded a goal in all four of their wins at this World Cup, against Australia, Denmark, Poland and England. 

"The only blot on the holders' record in Qatar was a 1-0 loss to Tunisia in their final Group D match although Deschamps made nine changes to his starting line-up with qualification already assured. A 1-0 Morocco victory in the semi-final can be backed at 16/1."

Bet on France v Morocco
Read the full article
 

11:48 - Plenty of offers available on tonight's game...

2 Goals Ahead

Place a pre-match bet on the standard Full Time Result market on France v Morocco and, for single bets, if the team you back to win goes 2 goals ahead at any stage during the match, we will pay out your bet in full regardless of whether the opposition comes back to draw or win the match. Multiple bet and Bet Builder selections will also be marked as won.

Find out more about our 2 Goals Ahead Early Payout Offer
 

World Cup winnings boost

We are giving you a chance to enhance your World Cup Bet Builder winnings by 25% - increasing your profit without increasing your stake. A Winnings Boost is available on tonight's big game.

Find out more about Winnings Boost
 

Bore Draw

Get your stake refunded on any game that finishes 0-0 in Qatar. So far, we have paid back over £28 million.

Find out more about Bore Draw Money Back +
 

Extra Time

Get your bet paid out as a winner in Bet Credits if it loses in normal time but goes on to win in extra time.

Find out more about Extra Time Extra Chance
 

10:45 - France v Morocco Bet Boosts >>

World Cup Blog

A handful of our Bet Boosts >> proved successful last night, including our 6/4 Argentina v Croatia Super Boost >>>, and we've BOOSTED the odds on a number of selections ahead of tonight's big game too.

Check these out:

First Goalscorer:
Oliver Giroud
Was 9/2 >> Now 11/2

Bet Builder:
Ousmane Dembele - Over 0.5 Shots on Target in the Match
Match Result will be France
Over 2 Goals in the Match
Was 11/4 >> Now 10/3

Bet Builder:
Hakim Ziyech - Over 0.5 Shots on Target in the Match
Morocco to Qualify
Over 7 Corners in the Match
Was 10/1 >> Now 12/1

View all Bet Boosts >>

Odds were correct at the time of writing and are subject to change or withdrawal at any time.
 

09:15 - The morning after the night before...

Well, I'm not sure about you, but we are still purring over Lionel Messi's showing last night.

The Argentinean was sensational, and he has firmly laid the marker down to Kylian Mbappe this evening, as he prepares for France's huge semi-final showdown with African surprise package Morocco.

The pair are neck and neck in the race for the Golden Boot, both on five goals apiece (Mbappe 4/5 and Messi 6/4), while they are the two front-runners in the hunt for the prestigious Golden Ball too, with Messi odds on at 4/11 and Mbappe 5/2.

The focus is firmly back on France this evening though as they look to secure a spot in successive World Cup finals, although they will have to overcome a stubborn and determined Morocco, who have been outstanding in Qatar thus far.

We've got plenty of pre-match build-up available for you to enjoy, including a full match preview, James Milton's betting tips whilst we have also profiled a couple of players from each of tonight's two semi-finalists who have been included in our World Cup Best XI.

View all World Cup odds and markets
 

21:30 - All eyes on France v Morocco on Wednesday...

What: France v Morocco, World Cup semi-final 
Where: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar 
When: 19:00, Wednesday 14th December 
How to watch: BBC One 
Odds: France 8/15, Draw 14/5, Morocco 13/2

France and Morocco find themselves potentially just 90 minutes away from reaching the World Cup final when they meet in the second semi-final on Wednesday (19:00). 

It’s a David v Goliath last four encounter, with the reigning world champions France taking on the surprise package of the tournament in the form of Morocco.

Who will set-up a showdown with Argentina in Sunday's final?

Read our full match preview as we somehow try and switch our attentions from Messi and co. to Wednesday evening's clash.

For now though, it's time to say good night. 

Remember to come back tomorrow morning as we provide all the latest odds, tips and Bet Boosts ahead of kick-off.
 

20:58 - Argentina are World Cup finalists!

World Cup

Well, who'd have thought it following their stunning opening group game defeat at the hands of Saudi Arabia.

Somehow, the South American's have bounced back from that gigantic upset to secure themselves a spot in the World Cup final courtesy of an emphatic victory at the Lusail Stadium.

A brace from Manchester City's Julian Alvarez on the back of Lionel Messi's fifth goal of the tournament to date proved more than enough to see off a Croatian side, who just ran out of steam following their penalty triumphs over Japan and Brazil over the past week.

To a man, the South Americans were absolutely outstanding, and will take some beating if they are to be denied being crowned champions of the world for a third time.

They will contest a sixth World Cup final against the winner of the second semi between Morocco and France - what a mouth-watering prospect either way.
 

20:46 - Magnificent Messi...

Argentina have scored 12 goals in Qatar this winter – Messi has scored five of them and provided a further three assists.

Could he complete an unprecedented quadruple, and lift the World Cup, claim both the Golden Ball and Golden Boot and chalk-up the most assists too?

These numbers and stats are frightening!

Let’s not forget this comes on the night he becomes the joint all-time record appearance maker at the finals and his country’s all-time leading World Cup goalscorer.

In featuring in Sunday’s showpiece final, he will establish himself as the standalone all-time appearance maker at the World Cup too – moving one clear of the German great Lothar Matthaus.

He just keeps on delivering!

View our Outright World Cup odds
 

20:29 - Goal! Argentina 3-0 Croatia (Alvarez)

World Cup

Alvarez makes it three! Game, set and match - surely?

The talented young frontman has his second goal of the evening, but it was all about the mesmeric Messi once more.

The talisman twisted and turned the Croatian backline into knots. before escaping his marker and squaring the ball back to his teammate, who rolled the ball home.

What a moment, and what a performance from arguably the greatest player to have graced the world stage. He truly is something else.

Croatia are crestfallen, and Argentina, who are 15/8 to net the fourth goal, are heading towards Sunday's curtain-closer.

View latest odds
 

20:24 - Argentina 2-0 Croatia (latest)

Croatia are knocking on the door as they desperately attempt to salvage their World Cup hopes, but they aren't able to breach that stubborn Argentinean backline.

A deep delivery from the left sparks panic in the box after Dejan Lovren wins the initial header and very nearly frees Kramaric, but the ball drops kindly to a South American defender who manages to clear his lines.

A reminder that Croatia, 9/4 to score the next goal, have yet to have an effort on target in the game. That, clearly, has to change!

View latest odds
 

20:05 - We're back underway in Lusail...

Can Croatia pull off what would be one of the most dramatic comebacks in World Cup history, or are Argentina heading to yet another final?

We are about to find out...

View latest match odds
 

19:50 - Argentina heading to Sunday's final?

World Cup Half-Time

An opening 45 minutes that Lionel Messi and co. could only have dreamed about.

They find themselves 2-0 up and seemingly on their way to Sunday's showpiece final.

Messi himself got the ball rolling from the spot midway through the first half, before a sublime run and finish from Julian Alvarez further extended their advantage.

Croatia need a miracle if they are to replicate their run to the final four years ago - Argentina simply need to see this one out.

I say simply, we all remember what happened the last time the South Americans were 2-0 up in a knockout fixture...

The next goal is hugely significant!

Third Goal:

Argentina - 10/11
No Third Goal - 7/2
Croatia - 13/8

View all half-time odds and markets
 

19:43 - 2 Goals Ahead Early Payout offer triggered

2 Goals Ahead

Customers who backed Argentina to win the game, and adhered to the qualifying terms and conditions, have now had their bets settled.

Regardless of whether Croatia find a way back into this or not, their selection/s have been marked as won.

Remember our 2 Goals Ahead Early Payout offer is available on every World Cup game this winter.
 

19:38 - Goal! Argentina 2-0 Croatia (Alvarez)

World Cup

Wow, Argentina double their advantage in absolutely outstanding fashion.

A scintillating counter-attack culminates in Alvarez steamrolling past three Croatian defenders, with a little bit of good fortune, and then finishing with aplomb from six-yards.

That's his third goal of the competition and he and his Argentinean teammates have one foot in Sunday's final.

Unbelievable scenes in Lusail. Croatia, who are now 16/1 to qualify, are absolutely shell-shocked. 

View latest odds
 

19:33 - Goal! Argentina 1-0 Croatia (Messi)

World Cup

Cometh the hour, cometh the man - record-breaking Lionel Messi puts Argentina ahead in this huge World Cup semi-final.

He has hardly had a kick in this game, but he makes absolutely no mistake in dispatching his 11th goal at the World Cup finals - overtaking Gabriel Batistuta as his country's all-time leading marksman at the tournament.

The PSG man rifles the ball into the top corner of the net after Alvarez was tripped by Livakovic; sending the South American supporters inside the Lusail Stadium into delirium.

Croatia have it all to do; but they've done it before let's not forget.

View latest odds
 

19:15 - Argentina 0-0 Croatia (latest)

It's been a cagey opening 15 minutes in Lusail - you sense that this one could go the distance this evening.

Both sides looking disciplined and unwilling to take too many risks in the final third for a fear of being caught on the counter-attack.

I am sure that will change in time, but up until now, there has been a real lack of goalmouth action.

We are 4/1 on this one ending goalless.
 

19:00 - Argentina 0-0 Croatia 

World Cup Kick Off

We're underway at the Lusail Stadium!

Will it be Argentina or Croatia punching their ticket to Sunday's final?

To Qualify:

Argentina - 4/9
Croatia - 7/4
 

18:10 - Argentina v Croatia team news...

So, the teams are in and Argentina make TWO changes for tonight's crucial clash.

Nicolas Tagliafico and Leandro Paredes come in for Lisandro Martinez and the suspended Marcos Acuna, whilst Lionel Messi's spot in the side means he ties Lothar Matthaus' all-time World Cup finals appearance record at 25.

Win or lose, you'd expect the PSG man to surpass that tally before the competition reaches its conclusion with the 3rd/4th place playoff and showpiece final at the weekend.

For Croatia, well they are unchanged - which is somewhat surprising given Bruno Petkovic was so impactful from the bench during their last outing.

Confirmed XI:

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

Croatia: Livakovic, Juranovic, Lovren, Gvardiol, Sosa, Modric, Brozovic, Kovacic, Palasic, Kramaric, Perisic.

Bet on Argentina v Croatia
 

17:50 - Lionel Messi / Argentina Super Boost >>>

World Cup Blog

We've got a Super Boost >>> available ahead of tonight's opening semi-final...

But be quick, this won't be available for long!

Bet Builder:
Lionel Messi - Over 0.5 Shots on Target in the Match
Argentina To Qualify
Was 8/13 >> Now 6/4

View all odds, markets and Bet Boosts >> here
 

17:03 - Croatia 10/1 to make it a spot kick success hat-trick

There is no doubt about it, Croatian supporters have been through the mill this tournament!

The 2018 runners-up are preparing for every eventuality as the minutes and seconds tick down towards their mammoth semi-final against Argentina this evening.

The European hopefuls have come through two arduous penalty shootouts en-route to their spot in the last four, having prevailed against both Japan and Brazil during the knockout rounds.

Could they strike gold in a shootout once again - well there is every chance, and they are 10/1 to repeat that feat for a third time.

Let's not forget that Argentina needed to come through a strenuous shootout themselves in the quarter-finals, surviving a remarkable Dutch fightback to eventually edge through 4-3 on spot kicks - and they are 9/1 to progress to the final by the same method.

If you fancy the tie to be settled in extra-time, then the South Americans can be backed at 9/1 with Croatia priced at 18/1.
 

15:45 - Goals Giveaway is BACK!


14:40 - A reminder of what's at stake for the semi-finalists...

World Cup Final

And then there were four...

Argentina v Croatia kicks off the World Cup semi-final action at 19:00 tonight, with France v Morocco set to follow on Wednesday evening.

For the losers, ultimate heartache - but for the winners, a spot in the showpiece final and an opportunity for football immortality.

Here is everything you need to know about Sunday's monumental World Cup Final.
 

13:48 - The big match preview...

A spot in the World Cup final is on the line this evening, as a Lionel Messi-led Argentina take on 2018 finalists Croatia at Lusail Stadium. 

Argentina overcame the Netherlands in a penalty shootout last time out to reach the last-four stage for the first time since 2014, while Croatia also squeezed through on penalties when sending home pre-tournament favourites Brazil. 

Paris Saint-Germain star Messi is still on course to lift the Jules Rimet trophy for the first time in what is his final World Cup, but the talismanic forward could be in for a rough ride against a Croatia side looking to go one better than their runners-up finish in Russia four years ago.

Read the full preview here
Bet on Argentina v Croatia
 

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11:15 - Argentina v Croatia Bet Boosts >>

Bet Boost

Here is a selection of pre-match Bet Boosts to whet your appetite ahead of tonight's game:

First Goalscorer:
Julian Alvarez
Was 11/2 >> NOW 13/2

Correct Score:
Argentina 3-0
Was 16/1 >> NOW 20/1

Bet Builder:
Luka Modric - Over 0.5 Shots on Target
Both Teams to Score - Yes
Match Result will be Draw or Croatia
Was 8/1 >> NOW 9/1

View all available pre-match Bet Boosts

Odds displayed were correct at the time of writing and are subject to change or withdrawal at any time.
 

10:00 - Argentina v Croatia tips

Ian Wilkerson tips

Both sides went the distance in their quarter-finals, and now they do battle for a place in Sunday's final.

The Racing Post's Ian Wilkerson has cast his eye over the first semi-final of the 2022 World Cup, and he is expecting a cagey affair in his overview of tonight's match.
 

08:20 - Welcome to the semi-finals!

Good morning and welcome to the World Cup semi-finals.

Argentina take on Croatia at the Lusail Stadium at 19:00. Will it be Lionel Messi's night?

We'll be bringing you the latest news, tips and odds throughout the day.
 

Quarter-finals - Croatia, Argentina, Morocco & France progress

Brazil 1-1 Croatia (4-2 Croatia on penalties)

Croatia were able to pull off more World Cup heroics with a dramatic penalty shootout victory over tournament favourites Brazil, with Dinamo Zagreb goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic proving the matchwinner once again.

Tite's Brazil thought they were destined for the semi-finals after Neymar had made a vital breakthrough in the first half of extra-time after a goalless first 90 minutes, before Croatia hit back through Bruno Petkovic's deflected strike to take the tie to penalties. Luka Modric and Co now stand one match away from a second successive World Cup final, after finishing as runners-up in Russia four years ago.

Netherlands 2-2 Argentina (4-3 Argentina on penalties)

Lionel Messi's Argentina are into the World Cup semi-finals after a rollercoaster triumph over Louis van Gaal's Netherlands which culminated in a penalty shootout.

The Argentines looked safely through to the last four after taking a 2-0 lead courtesy of goals from Nahuel Molina and Lionel Messi, before a dramatic late double from Dutch substitute Wout Weghorst sent the match to extra-time. The South Americans would come out on top via penalties, however, with charismatic goalkeeper Emi Martinez the hero with two saves.

Morocco 1-0 Portugal

Morocco have become the first African and Arabic nation to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup after overcoming Portugal 1-0 in a valiant display at the Al Thumama Stadium.

As they have been all tournament, Morocco were equally well organised as they were spirited, with Youssef En-Nesyri's header enough to down an out of sorts Portuguese side.

This defeat for Portugal sees Cristiano Ronaldo bow out of his likely last World Cup finals, with the football icon pictured in tears when departing the pitch at full-time.

England 1-2 France

France's hopes of retaining their World Cup crown are still alive after edging past England 2-1 in a closely-fought quarter-final encounter.

Les Bleus had taken the lead in stunning fashion through a long range strike from Aurelien Tchouameni, before England levelled the tie from the spot through Harry Kane early on in the second half.

A late header from Olivier Giroud would ultimately prove the winner, but not before England captain Harry Kane blazed a penalty over the bar to waste a golden opportunity for his country to grab a second equaliser and likely take the match into extra-time.
 

Day 17 - Morocco shock Spain to set up Portugal test

Morocco have reached the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in their history after defeating a much-fancied Spain side on penalties after the sides played out a goalless draw over 120 minutes.

The impressive Moroccans will have their work cut out to take a further step into the semi-finals, though, with a last-eight tie against a Portugal team who were able to thrash Switzerland 6-1 in the Round of 16 with 21-year-old Benfica striker Goncalo Ramos bagging a phenomenal hat-trick.
 

Day 16 - Croatia sneak past Japan as Brazil batter South Korea

Finalists four years ago in Russia, Croatia could be set for another historic World Cup run after sealing their place in the quarter-finals of this winter's finals in Qatar with a dramatic penalty shootout victory over Japan, with the Vatreni and the Samurai Blue level at 1-1 after 120 minutes.

Zlatko Dalic's men face a tough test in the quarters, however, where they will face a Brazil side fresh from a stunning 4-1 victory over South Korea in the Round of 16 in what marked one of the competition's most outstanding performances so far.
 

Day 15 - France and England cruise to last-eight

A Kylian Mbappe-inspired France took their place in the World Cup quarter-finals with a resounding 3-1 win over Poland, with the PSG striker netting a breath-taking brace after Olivier Giroud had put Les Bleus in front to become his country's all-time leading goalscorer.

Didier Deschamps' men will face England in the last eight after the Three Lions dismantled AFCON winners Senegal in style in a 3-0 win, with captain Harry Kane grabbing his first goal of the tournament and teenage sensation Jude Bellingham coming to the fore in midfield.
 

Day 14 - Netherlands and Argentina through to quarters

Netherlands 3-1 USA
Argentina 2-1 Australia

Netherlands prevailed in the first World Cup Round of 16 match with a 3-1 win against the USA, following a vintage Dutch display from Louis van Gaal's side which featured some eye-catching team goals from Memphis Depay, Daley Blind and Denzel Dumfries.

The Dutch will meet Argentina in the last-eight, after the South Americans were able to edge out a plucky Australia team 2-1 courtesy of goals from their talismanic captain Lionel Messi and Manchester City's Julian Alvarez.
 

Day 13 - South Korea and Switzerland secure place in Round of 16 in style 

South Korea 2-1 Portugal
Ghana 0-2 Uruguay
Serbia 2-3 Switzerland
Cameroon 1-0 Brazil 

South Korea were able to book a place in the Round of 16 courtesy of a dramatic late winner from Hwang Hee-chan which secured a 2-1 win over already-qualified Portugal, in a result which enabled Paulo Bento's side to finish ahead of Uruguay on goals scored despite the Uruguayans overcoming Ghana 2-0.

Murat Yakin's Switzerland also sealed qualification to the knockout stages in dramatic fashion on the final day of Group G action, with a 3-2 win over Serbia enough to see the Swiss through behind tournament-favourites Brazil despite a shock 1-0 loss to Cameroon following mass rotation from Tite.
 

Day 12 - More World Cup chaos as Belgium and Germany crash out

Croatia 0-0 Belgium
Canada 1-2 Morocco
Japan 2-1 Spain
Costa Rica 2-4 Germany

Belgium were dumped out of the World Cup at the group stage after failing to make a breakthrough in a goalless draw against Croatia despite several presentable chances, with the Croatians making it through to the knockout rounds along with North Africans Morocco who finish top of Group F following a final day 2-1 victory over Canada.

Germany have also been eliminated at the group stages for the second successive time at the World Cup finals, after a crazy end to Group E saw Hansi Flick's men bow out on goal difference behind Spain despite a 4-2 win over Costa Rica, as a result of Japan delivering a shock 2-1 victory over the Spaniards to top the section.
 

Day 11 - Another tense and dramatic day of final group stage matches

Tunisia 1-0 France
Australia 1-0 Denmark
Poland 0-2 Argentina
Saudi Arabia 1-2 Mexico

Australia were able to pull off a major World Cup upset to defeat the much-fancied Denmark 1-0 and book their place in the knockout stages of the competition for just the second time in the country's history, alongside France who succumbed to a shock 1-0 loss to Tunisia after manager Dider Deschamps decided to heavily rotate his side.

In Group C, Lionel Messi and Argentina completed their tournament turnaround to qualify for the Round of 16 as section winners with a 2-0 win over Poland, in a result which saw Robert Lewandowski and Co though as runners-up on goal difference over Mexico whose 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia proved insufficient in order to progress.
 

Day 10 - Senegal and USA clinch qualification after final day battles

Ecuador 1-2 Senegal
Netherlands 2-0 Qatar
Iran 0-1 USA
Wales 0-3 England

In essentially a shootout for qualification from Group A, AFCON winners Senegal were able to edge out Ecuador 2-1 to book their place in the Round of 16 alongside the Netherlands who closed the group with a routine if uninspiring 2-0 victory over hosts Qatar.

Iran and the USA engaged in a similarly winner-takes-all clash in Group B, with Christian Pulisic grabbing the only goal of the game to send Gregg Berhalter's side through to the knockout rounds. The Stars and Stripes progressed as runners-up in the section, behind England who finished the group stages with a comprehensive 3-0 win over neighbours Wales.
 

Day 9 - Brazil and Portugal through after thrilling day of action

Cameroon 3-3 Serbia
South Korea 2-3 Ghana
Brazil 1-0 Switzerland
Portugal 2-0 Uruguay

Billed as a potentially tight affair pre-kick off, Cameroon and Serbia served up one of the games of the tournament so far in a thrilling 3-3 draw which saw Cameroon's Vincent Aboubakar net with an audacious chip. 

This pulsating opening match was followed up by another belter of a game in Group H, with Ghana's Mohammed Kudus shining with two goals as the Black Stars downed South Korea 3-2.

Later on, both Brazil and Portugal were able to confirm their passage through to the Round of 16, with 1-0 and 2-0 victories over Switzerland and Uruguay respectively. Both of these wins were inspired by Manchester United midfielders, with Casemiro firing home a brilliant late winner for Brazil and Bruno Fernandes registering a brace for the Portuguese.
 

Day 8 - Germany still alive, Belgium on the brink

Japan 0-1 Costa Rica
Belgium 0-2 Morocco
Croatia 4-1 Canada
Spain 1-1 Germany

On a day when Japan could've all-but-sealed their passage into the last 16, they suffered a humbling 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica, in what was a total contrast to their performance against Germany.

Belgium suffered a huge blow, once again putting up an underwhelming performance in a 2-0 loss to Morocco, and now know that they'll have to beat Croatia in the final game. Certainly not impossible, but a big improvement will be needed.

Croatia put four past Canada to send the Maple Leafs home in their first World Cup since 1986, while Germany kept their World Cup hopes alive with a late equaliser against Spain.

Day 7 - Magical Messi

Tunisia 0-1 Australia
Poland 2-0 Saudi Arabia
France 2-1 Denmark
Argentina 2-0 Mexico

Australia recovered excellently from their defeat to France to secure an invaluable win against Tunisia before Poland - thanks to the heroics of Wojciech Szczesny - overcame Saudi Arabia 2-0.

France then impressed against Denmark to secure their passage into the last 16, before Lionel Messi once again inspired a lacklustre Argentina to beat Mexico 2-0.

Day 6 - Wales heartbreak, England stalemate

Wales 0-2 Iran
Qatar 1-3 Senegal
Netherlands 1-1 Ecuador
England 0-0 USA

Wales really needed to avoid defeat today, knowing a win would've put them in a great position to qualify for the knockouts, and they so nearly did avoid defeat, conceding in the ninth and 12th minute of stoppage time after Wayne Hennessey was shown a red card. 

Ecuador held the Netherlands to a 1-1 draw with Enner Valencia and Cody Gakpo picking up where they left off, putting the South Americans in a good position to reach the last 16, before Senegal got their first win, beating Qatar 3-1.

And finally England were brought back down to earth with a bump after following their 6-2 win over Iran up with a drab 0-0 draw against the USA, in which you'd argue the underdogs were actually the better side.

They've done enough to qualify, likely as group winners, but much improvement will be needed from that performance.

Day 5 - Portugal in five-goal thriller

Switzerland 1-0 Cameroon
Uruguay 0-0 South Korea
Portugal 3-2 Ghana
Brazil 2-0 Serbia

After Switzerland won 1-0 against Cameroon to kick the day off, we were treated to another Bore Draw as Uruguay and South Korea cancelled each other out.

Portugal and Ghana then played out a five-goal thriller, with the Euro 2016 winners so nearly throwing it away at the death.

Tournament favourites Brazil got their campaign off to a winning start, beating Serbia 2-0, with Richarlison scoring what will surely be a Goal of the Tournament contender.

Day 4 - Germany suffer upset, Spain in seven-goal rout

Morocco 0-0 Croatia
Germany 1-2 Japan
Spain 7-0 Costa Rica
Belgium 1-0 Canada

Morocco and Croatia played out another 0-0 draw, once again triggering bet365's Bore Draw Money Back + offer, before Germany suffered another huge World Cup upset, after going 1-0 up to Japan before falling to a 2-1 defeat, which suddenly puts Japan in pole position to qualify. 

Spain then put seven past a hapless Costa Rica before Belgium faced a potential upset of their own before narrowly edging past Canada.

Day 3 - Argentina stunned

Argentina 1-2 Saudi Arabia
Poland 0-0 Mexico
Denmark 0-0 Tunisia
France 4-1 Australia

1990 saw Argentina on the receiving end of one of the World Cup's all-time greatest shocks, losing their opening game - as defending champions - to Cameroon, but they may have superseded that with their 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia. They're still fancied to qualify, but there's suddenly huge pressure on their next match against Mexico.

Mexico meanwhile got off to a more low-key start, playing out a 0-0 draw with Poland in which Robert Lewandowski missed from 12 yards, with Denmark and Tunisia following suit with a 0-0 of their own.

France rounded things off in style, however, after falling 1-0 down to Australia. They kicked on from there after the setback with one of the performances of the tournament to put four past the Socceroos.

Day 2 - England off to a perfect start

England 6-2 Iran
Senegal 0-2 Netherlands
USA 1-1 Wales

The World Cup truly arrived on day two as England put six past a supposedly resolute Iran with a performance that will put their World Cup rivals on notice.

The Netherlands left it late against Senegal, with Cody Gakpo opening the scoring, and Wales bounced back from a miserable first half performance to rescue a point through Who Else But Gareth Bale to keep their qualification hopes alive.

Day 1 - Hosts off to losing start

Qatar 0-2 Ecuador

Qatar became the first host nation to lose their opening game at a World Cup with a rather timid performance against Ecuador, whose goals came from former West Ham man Enner Valencia, the second of which a wonderful header to put the game beyond doubt.

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