DOHA ( Associated Press) – It took a stroke of luck for Lautaro Martinez to regain his confidence.
The forward had lost possession in Argentina after the first two games of the group stage, but last Friday he scored the decisive penalty in a 4-3 win against the Netherlands in the penalty shootout and could now play in the semi-final against Croatia next Tuesday. Is. Lusail Stadium.
“From the moment I left midfield until I caught the ball, I was calm, very calm. I knew there was a lot of responsibility for this penalty,” said the Inter Milan striker after the win. “In moments when the ball doesn’t want to enter, it works for classification.”
Martinez, 25, was the undisputed starter for coach Lionel Scaloni ahead of the World Cup. The cycle’s second top scorer behind star Lionel Messi, with 21 goals, the “Bull” was key in clinching the Copa America in 2021, with the Albiceleste ending a 28-year streak without a title.
But things did not turn out as expected in Qatar. The new technology denied them some goals previously considered valid, in a 2–1 defeat against Saudi Arabia in order to approve an advanced position in the tournament.
With a damaged self-esteem, Martínez had no offensive impact and was substituted in a 2–0 win against Mexico. In the next match against Poland, Scaloni left him out of the squad and opted for youngster Julián Álvarez, who has scored twice in the World Cup.
A few days ago, Martinez’s agent revealed that the player was suffering from an injury to his right ankle and had played undercover in his World Cup debut.
Martínez replaced Álvarez in the second half, just before the Netherlands took a 2–2 draw to extra time. In this period, the Argentine striker had a few clear chances, but could not break Dutch goalkeeper Andries Knoppert.
The signs were not good when it came to taking the last penalty of the series. Martínez took the ball from Knoppert’s hands and pushed him before grounding the ball at the point of execution. The Argentine stood in front, staring at the goal and took his right hand close to a post.
He admitted, “I am a little hurt because of what has been said.” “But I always try to work with my head down, to turn a deaf ear because what brought me here was always the effort, the goal, the desire that someone has to wear this shirt.”
Victorious in such a responsible way, Martinez’s action rises to play the semi-finals against defending runners-up Croatia at Lusail Stadium on Tuesday.
“We’ll try to do it in 90 minutes, so the team is calm,” he promised.