Lionel Messi and Luka Modric battle for the last final in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar
Two famous Ballon d'Or-winning number 10s.
Two previous World Cup finalists.
This is their last chance to reach the peak of football and hold the famous trophy before they retire.
It is very exciting to think that two star captains, Argentina's Lionel Messi and Croatia's Luka Modric will go head-to-head in Tuesday's first World Cup semi-final.
Paris St-Germain's Messi is now age 35 and Real Madrid's Modric is 37, therefore it is highly likely that the third-place playoff or final this weekend will be where their World Cup careers end.
So how do the two teams compare, and which one will take his country to a final match against France or Morocco on Sunday?
Comparing the Two Captains at this World Cup
Both players have played crucial roles for their country's runs in this year's World Cup, and scored in their quarterfinal penalty shootout wins.
Messi took the first kick when Argentina beat the Netherlands, whereas Modric scored Croatia's third kick in their win against tournament favorites Brazil.
Modric is the first player ever to score three penalties in shootouts at the World Cup (also netting against Denmark and Russia in 2018).
However, in around 90 or 120 minutes, it's Messi who has the edge. He has assisted two and scored four goals, while Modric has yet to put in an assist or goal. Another thing to note is that Messi plays up front, while Modric performs in midfield.
During the group stage, Messi scored a penalty against Saudi Arabia, assisted and scored a goal against Mexico, and had a penalty saved against Poland.
He scored the opener against Australia in the Round of 16 and assisted the opening goal against the Netherlands in the quarterfinal, before scoring from the spot in the 73rd minute - and again in the shootout.
Former Argentina teammate Pablo Zabaleta said: "I think Messi knows that this is his last World Cup and you can really see that he is enjoying it."
As for Modric, he was replaced before the penalties in Croatia's Round of 16 shootout win over Japan - but stayed on against Brazil.
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said, "Luka led for 120 minutes and was at the head of the team. It is unbelievable how he plays for his age, and he was not tired. When we fell behind, we were thinking of replacing a midfield player and asked him what his situation was. He said he was still fully ready. He showed again that he is one of the best players in the world."
Previous World Cup Finalists
The past two World Cup finals have witnessed one of these two on the losing side.
In 2014, Messi's Argentina lost 1-0 to powerhouse Germany.
In 2018, Modric's Croatia were defeated 4-2 by France.
Both have won the Golden Ball, the award for best player in the tournament, during those times. And both have prospective milestones to reach in Tuesday's game.
Messi will equal the record of Lothar Matthaus for the most World Cup appearances (25). He would go on to break the German's record at the weekend in either the third-place playoff or final.
Messi has scored 10 World Cup goals. Only seven players have achieved more - he is just one behind German Jurgen Klinsmann and Hungary's Sandor Kocsis, and two behind Pele.
Germany's Miroslav Klose sits on top of the World Cup scorers list with 16 goals.
Messi already holds the record for most assists in World Cup knockout games, surpassing Brazil star Pele's old record of four in their last game.
Messi has scored and assisted a goal in three different World Cup matches, including two this 2022. Since that statistics was first recorded in 1966, no player has done so in four games.
He has scored 95 goals in 170 caps - both national records.
Modric has won a Croatia record of 160 caps and scored 23 international goals.
He will become the oldest outfield player to begin six games at one World Cup - beating Brazil wing-back Nilton Santos, who had just turned 37 in 1962.
He has made the most World Cup appearances (17) and most appearances at major tournaments (30) for Croatia - before this semi-final.
Messi has one Copa America to show for his international career, while Modric has yet to win a trophy.
There is also a nice coincidence between the players' careers. Messi scored his first Argentina goal while Modric made his Croatia debut in the same game - a friendly match between the sides in March 2006, in which Croatia won 3-2.
This semifinal will be Messi's 1,002nd game for club and country. He has scored 790 goals and made a total of 339 assists.
Modric's career figures are more difficult to tally, as his time played in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina for Dinamo Zagreb, Zrinjski Mostar and Inter Zapresic not very well documented.
Both have already won the prestigious Ballon d'Or (Golden Ball), Messi seven times while Modric got it in 2018. Portugal legend Cristiano Ronaldo and France striker Karim Benzema are the only other players who have won it since 2007.
Modric has won a total of five Champions Leagues compared to Messi's four, while they both have won league titles in two countries.
This will be the 27th time they have faced each other, with 22 of those from El Clasico meetings between Barcelona and Real Madrid. Modric has the edge with 12 wins compared to Messi's nine.
Sadly, both players will be retiring in the near future, so fans should thoroughly enjoy watching and cheering for them while they are still going.
December 13 (Tue)
Croatia vs Argentina
December 14 (Wed)
Morocco vs France
3rd/4th Place play-off
December 17 (Sat)
December 18 (Sun)
*Dates according to GMT timezone
No matter what happens in the semifinals, this World Cup will be historic!
- Lionel Messi may win his first World Cup
- Croatia may win their first World Cup
- France may be the first team in 60 years to retain the World Cup title
- Morocco may give Africa its first ever World Cup trophy
Who's your favorite team to win at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022?
Image: The Inquirer