With no more double or triple matchdays, all eyes were on the semifinal between Croatia and Argentina in Qatar today.

The 2014 runners-up got the 3-0 win over the 2018 runners-up, with Argentina reaching their sixth final, aiming for a third title.

Here are five big talking points from the match.

The most watched hamstring in the world

Argentina's Lionel Messi grabs his left hamstring while on the field during the FIFA World Cup semifinal against Croatia.
Lionel Messi was feeling at his left leg at various points in the match and will be closely watched leading into the final.(Getty Images: Julian Finney)

At about the 20-minute mark of the first half, Lionel Messi was poking and prodding at his left hamstring while standing away from the play.

Argentina’s attack sprung to life from that moment and they led 2-0 15 minutes later, so it seemed a momentary blip, but then he came out of the tunnel for the second half once again grabbing at his left leg.

He seemed to be pushing at his groin, glute and thigh, and while it didn’t seem to affect his ability to impact the game, you’d think the 35-year-old will spend a lot of time in the cryo chamber in coming days.

Injury or no, Messi makes magic happen

Argentina's Lionel Messi runs away with arms outstretched after scoring a goal against Croatia in the FIFA World Cup semifinal.
Messi’s penalty took him ahead of Gabriel Batistuta as Argentina’s most prolific goal-scorer at World Cups.(Getty Images: Michael Regan/FIFA)

First came the penalty, which on the surface appeared Messi had little to do with creating, but replays showed Croatia defender Joško Gvardiol drawn too far towards midfield by the threat of Messi, creating acres of space in behind.

Once Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livaković brought down Julián Álvarez and the penalty was awarded, though, more than just Gvardiol’s eyes were on the little maestro.

Having been denied by Polish keeper Wojciech Szczęsny in the group stage, and facing Croatian penalty-stopping machine Livaković, a lesser player may have been a bit nervous.

Messi’s shot from the spot was actually remarkably similar to the one stopped in the Poland game, but hit harder and higher and was untouched by the goalie this time.

Then came his masterpiece in the 69th minute, when he zoomed down the right flank past Gvardiol, who received no help from his fellow defenders as Messi stopped, propped, turned, spun and eventually passed to Julián Álvarez for his second goal of the night.

Three-nil Argentina. Another final date booked for Messi.

Three cards and a coach sent off in seconds

Former footballers Mario Mandzukic and Bastian Schweinsteiger laugh together before the Argentina-Croatia World Cup semifinal.
Perhaps Mario Mandžukić (right) should have kept his mouth covered as he did while speaking to Bastian Schweinsteiger before the game.(Getty Images: Alex Livesey/Danehouse)

After Dominik Livaković barrelled into Álvarez in the box, sticking a leg out for good measure, referee Daniele Orsato basically had no choice but to point to the spot (despite what the admittedly biased Mark Bosnich may think).

Livaković went into the book for his challenge and Mateo Kovačić joined him after he got a bit too aggressive as he and his teammates surrounded Orsato.

But the most absolute punishment was reserved for someone on the sidelines.

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Mario Mandžukić, who sent Croatia into the 2018 World Cup final with his game-winner against England, is serving as an assistant to head coach Zlatko Dalić but apparently got a little too involved with his protestations from the dugout.

It’s not entirely clear what he did to warrant a red card, but clearly the officials didn’t like it.

Julián Álvarez’s Maradona moment

Argentina's Julian Alvarez kicks a ball past Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic in the Qatar World Cup semifinal.
Julián Álvarez couldn’t be stopped and neither could Argentina.(AP: Hassan Ammar)

Any time an Argentinian player dribbles through most of the field to score at a World Cup, it will elicit memories of Diego Maradona’s legendary goal against England in 1986.

While Álvarez didn’t dribble through an entire team, and also got very lucky with a couple of deflections off Josip Juranović and Borna Sosa in the box, his goal was still a dream moment for the 22-year-old.

His block allowed Nicolás Otamendi to nod the ball forward, where Messi touched around Marcelo Brozović and back into the path of Álvarez.

Steaming onto the ball about 50 metres from goal, Álvarez powered upfield and did it all by himself on the counter-attack, aided by some distracting runs from Enzo Fernández and Nahuel Molina, to score a decisive goal.

Farewell(?) to an all-time great

Croatia's Luka Modric adjusts his armband in front of Argentina's Lionel Messi during their Qatar World Cup semifinal.
The progression of one of the game’s greats came at the expense of another.(AP: Martin Meissner)

When Luka Modrić was subbed off in the 81st minute, it wasn’t accompanied by the sort of tears and fanfare expected of a superstar’s departure from the main stage.

Modrić has signalled his intent to keep playing for Croatia, but North America 2026 is a long way away and the 2018 Golden Ball winner will be just a few months shy of 41 years old by the time it arrives.

Playing World Cups at that age is the sort of thing almost solely reserved for goalkeepers.

Croatia probably used up the last of their energy in taking down Brazil in the quarterfinals, and while Modrić couldn’t pull the right rein as his side was knocked out, the 2022 tournament gave us enough masterful performances from the Real Madrid great to leave us with some happy memories of his brilliance.