Lionel Messi offers to give his Man of the Match award to an ‘extraordinary’ Argentina team-mate

Lionel Messi has singled out Argentina team-mate Julian Alvarez for particular praise after the youngster netted twice in Tuesday’s 3-0 semi-final victory over Croatia.

The Manchester City forward became the youngest player since Pele in 1958 to net a brace in a World Cup semi-final, though a masterclass from Messi saw the 35-year-old handed the Man of the Match award ahead of his team-mate.

Messi opened the scoring from the penalty spot after Alvarez was brought down by Dominik Livakovic, dispatching his shot into the roof of the net with aplomb.

Alvarez then scored a brilliant solo goal, running from the halfway line all the way to Croatia’s penalty box before a couple of fortunate ricochets and bounces saw him poke the ball past Livakovic.

The match was then put to bed in the second half when Messi went on a mazy run of his own, twisting and turning past Josko Gvardiol before reaching the byline and laying the ball on a plate for Alvarez to guide into the net from close range.

It is the fourth game of the tournament in which Messi has been handed the Man of the Match award, though he felt the 22-year-old Alvarez would have been equally deserving.

Asked if he would have given the MOTM trophy to anyone else, the Argentina skipper replied: ‘Every player did very well, but if I had to choose I would give this award to Julian. He had an extraordinary game.’

Alvarez gave a brilliant display against Croatia.

Reflecting on the match, Alvarez himself said: ‘I am very happy personally and for the whole group. We played a great game. Now we have to rest up and play another great game on Sunday.’

Incredibly, Argentina started their World Cup campaign with a defeat against Saudi Arabia, one of the lowest ranked sides in the competition, but Messi feels that loss made the squad stronger and more united.

He continued: ‘The first match was a very hard blow to take. We had played 36 matches without defeat until then.

‘To start like that against an opponent we never expected to lose to, it was a very tough test for this group.

‘But we showed that we are strong and we got better match by match.

‘What we did was so difficult because each match was a final. We played five finals and we won five, now hopefully that continues on Sunday.’

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