DOHA, Qatar — Lionel Scaloni has hit back at suggestions Argentina resorted to underhanded tactics during their World Cup quarterfinal against Netherlands.

Argentina face Croatia in the first semifinal on Tuesday after needing a penalty shootout to knock out Netherlands following a fiery 2-2 draw that featured 17 yellow cards and one red.

There were a number of confrontations between players and staff, both on the pitch and in the tunnel after the game, but Scaloni said his team had not been deliberately provocative.

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“I want to finish with this topic,” Scaloni told a news conference on Monday. “We played the game in the way we had to play. It was both teams, Argentina and Netherlands, but that’s football. You have to defend and attack and in games things can happen. Arguments can happen, and that’s why there’s a referee.

“We have to put an end to the idea of thinking Argentina is that sort of behaviour.

“We have respect for Netherlands and now we have respect for Croatia. We lost to Saudi Arabia and didn’t say anything.

“I’m not convinced of this idea of unsporting behaviour. We played the game the way we had to play it and there’s a referee in charge. We need to put an end to this idea because it’s not what we are.”

Argentina, who are without suspended pair Marcos Acuna and Gonzalo Montiel, face Croatia at Lusail Stadium in their first meeting since a 3-0 defeat to Zlatko Dalic’s side in the group stage of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Nicolas Tagliafico was in the Argentina team in Russia, but the Lyon full-back said the result will have no bearing on which team reaches the final this time.

“It’s been four years,” Tagliafico said. “They have done really good work, they are a good team and a good squad. It’s different players now and we are another squad and another team. I think the match will be played in another way.

“We have analysed how Croatia play, but we need to think about what we can do to hurt them. We will focus on Argentina and focus on ourselves.”

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Meanwhile, Dalic, the Croatia coach, was forced to defend his team’s playing style ahead of the semifinal.

Croatia have won just one match inside 90 minutes in Qatar and had one shot on target against Brazil in the quarterfinals before beating the five-time champions on penalties.

It has raised questions about whether Dalic sets his team up specifically to wait for extra time and a shootout, but the 56-year-old had a short answer to the suggestion that his tactics are boring.

“We want to score goals and get results,” he said. “We are in the semifinals of the World Cup and that’s where the story ends.”

Croatia are into their second successive semifinal and their third since 1998, but ahead of their meeting with Argentina, Dalic was keen to pile the pressure onto the opposition, who are attempting to win the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

“They are under greater pressure than we are,” he added.

“It’s a very important match for them. They will have a lot of supporters, more than us, and that’s a handicap for us but we won’t be complaining. We’ll play against one of the best football teams in the world so we’ll enjoy it.”



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Argentina’s Scaloni rejects ‘unsporting behaviour’ label