Argentina reached their sixth World Cup final thanks to a cruising 3-0 victory against a fatigued Croatia.
Messi scored another penalty whilst Julian Alvarez netted the other two in a dominant display against a Croatian team who seemed to feel the effects of having both their previous knockout games go to penalties.
The contest began with chances few and far between, both sides feeling each other out and enjoying some early possession. Messi appeared to be struggling with a hamstring issue in the opening stages, but he was okay to continue.
The first proper opportunity of the game took 24 minutes to occur. It came from a long distance effort from Fernandez which drew a comfortable save from Livakovic who was stellar against Brazil. Upon replay, it appeared that it was going wide of the post anyway. Croatia countered minutes later in what looked to be a promising attack, but they only won a free kick which came to nothing.
Perisic attempted an audacious chip shot from the left edge of the area which looped over both Martinez and the bar. Argentina then went up the other end and were given the chance to get the first goal from the spot. A Fernandez through ball cut open the Croatian defence before Alvarez was bundled over by Livakovic after getting a shot away. His effort was cleared before crossing the line, but referee Daniele Orsato pointed to the spot, nonetheless.
Messi stepped up for Argentina and coolly deposited it into the very top right hand corner to give his country an important lead. It was an emphatic finish from Messi in what was his third conversion from 12 yards in this tournament.
Argentina were quick to double their lead as, on 38 minutes, they broke forward again and, despite a couple of lucky deflections and missed clearances, Alvarez was able to poke it past Livakovic for 2-0.
A quickfire Argentina double meant it was a steep uphill climb for the Europeans to get back into the game and save their final hopes.
And Argentina nearly had a third moments later as Tagliafico met a corner and it required a magnificent save from Livakovic to keep his side in the game, and the tournament.
The Croatians lacked a goalscoring threat as, despite all their neat midfield passing, it came to nothing of purpose, and they registered 0 shots on target in the opening 45.
They made three changes within five minutes of the restart as Orsic, Vlasic and Petkovic came on to try and spark a fight back.
The game began to open up and Messi tried to add his second, but his shot was from a narrow angle and was saved. The game was wrapped up with just over 20 to go as Messi danced and weaved down the right before pulling it back for Alvarez to net his second and Argentina’s third. It was a mazy run from the little man who demonstrated why he is one of the best.
Croatia did come close from a corner with five minutes left to play but the contest was already over.
Ultimately, the White and Sky Blues have reached another World Cup final, their last being in 2014 when they lost to Germany in Brazil. It was vintage Messi and Argentina have seemingly found their best form at the best time.