LUSAIL, Qatar ( Associated Press) — Like eight years ago, Argentina once again sent the Netherlands home on penalties at the World Cup. And Lionel Messi took another step to win the title that he lacks and yearns for so much.
With goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez as their hero, the Albiceleste won 4–3 on penalties after a 2–2 draw in extra time on Friday in the quarter-finals. Similarly, the South American fielded the Oranje in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup.
La Albiceleste will play in the semi-finals for the third time in the last 32 years against runners-up Croatia, who had earlier beaten Brazil 4–2 on penalties.
The Argentine goalkeeper saved shots from Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghuis from the outset, while Lautaro Martínez defined the trial in Argentina’s favour.
“We are in the semi-finals because we have passion and heart. We are as excited as people”, declared goalkeeper Martínez.
Messi, who scored from a penalty during the 90th minute and who took a shot by definition, declared that “It was not to go to extra time or penalties, we suffered. But we passed.”
Regarding the next opponent, Messi warned that “Croatia showed that it is a great team. Sometimes they played on par with Brazil. It is a team that has been working with the same coach for a long time and they are a team.” Know each other very well.
It was a happy result for the Argentines who had victory within their grasp, let bygones be bygones and were overcome by the courage of their goalkeeper.
The South Americans had taken a two-goal lead, but a brace from striker Wout Verghorst took the match into extra time.
“This team has the guts to know how to handle situations,” said Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni.
With the first half ending without any threats in the areas, Argentina opened the scoring with Messi assisting full-back Nahuel Molina. The Atlético de Madrid player beat captain van Dijk in a one-on-one and finished with the tip of his right boot at the Lucel Stadium, again in front of the vast majority of white and blue fans.
Argentina’s captain increased the penalty on 73 minutes after a foul on Marcos Acuña by Denzel Dumfries. With this goal, Messi reached ten goals in the World Cup and surpassed striker Gabriel Batistuta’s record as Argentina’s top scorer in the tournament.
But Vergorst, who came on for Memphis Depay in the 78th minute, brought the Netherlands back to life. The 1.97-metre giant broke free with a sliced header on 83 minutes and in the last minute of extra time he got the ball in the six-yard box after a free kick under the barrier and, halfway through, made it 2-2 .
The match was presented in previews as a tactical battle between the oldest coach at the World Cup, Louis van Gaal (71), and his Argentine colleague Scaloni, who at 44 was the youngest in the tournament.
Previously an innovator and student of strategy, transitioning his career from attacking football to a more conservative game. Scaloni, for his part, is always attentive to the opponent in defining the interpreters of his game plan.
In a provocative tone, Van Gaal claimed in the preview that his Netherlands had not allowed Messi to touch the ball in the final duel at the World Cup in Brazil eight years earlier, which the South Americans won on a penalty shootout in which goalkeeper Sergio Romero was fouled. There was a shape. And he warns that he has the recipe to put the “Flea” back under control and avenge what happened eight years ago.
“In Brazil I knew we were going to win that match”, Van Gaal said. “There is nothing to condemn this time. The players have fought till the end… It is very painful to see how we got out because I have tried everything possible to avoid this situation.”
In one of his classic moves, the Argentina star started from left to right and slotted into the area between Nathan Ake’s legs. Molina took advantage of the huge Van Dijk and defined with the tip of a right boot. It was the first goal for the right-back in 25 matches with Argentina.
Messi’s perfect execution of the penalty awarded for Acuña’s foul put a sentence on the game. It was his fourth goal in Qatar, second in 11 steps.
The game had a break point on 78 minutes with Weghorst’s entry for Memphis Depay.
The Turkish Besiktas striker brought the Netherlands back to life with a header and then was the recipient of a free kick awarded by Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoj after ten minutes of extra time had ended, angering Argentina. Tuun Koopminers executed the free kick under the barrier, Weghorst beat Enzo Fernández off the mark and deflected the cross for 2–2.
“They can’t have a referee like that. It was not up to the task”, Messi complained. “I don’t want to talk about the referee because you can’t be honest, if you talk they punish you . FIFA should think about it. You can’t hire a referee for these examples”.
Argentina were close to victory in extra time, which they eventually achieved by 11 goals. Messi, Leandro Paredes, Gonzalo Montiel and “Toro” Martínez scored, while Fernández had the deflection.
For the Netherlands, which would have to wait another four years to shed the thorn of three lost finals in 1974, 1978 and 2010, Koopminers, Verghorst and Luuk de Jong converted.
The game produced a record number of bookings for a World Cup match, a total of 17 yellow cards, including one for Messi, who finished with blood on his upper lip after extra time, in which Argentina clearly dominated. was.
The defeat marked the end of Van Gaal’s third cycle as Oranje coach and with the explanation that he did not concede defeat after regulation time in the two World Cups he was to lead. There were Argentina and the penalty wall.