DOHA ( Associated Press) — The image of Lionel Messi with a bloodied lip, dirty uniform and extreme anger at his opponents after reaching the World Cup semi-finals reflects the Argentine’s fighting spirit, a trait as important as his game.
At the age of 35, Messi proves his worth, breaks records and beats anyone who tries to displace him – be it Neymar, Kylian Mbappe or Cristiano Ronaldo – every performance for the Albiceleste in Qatar In, his fifth and probably last World Cup.
The captain was again chosen to figure in Friday’s 4–3 victory over the Netherlands in the penalty shootout for the quarter-finals. He gave one assist, scored two penalties and was the most influential player on the pitch. nothing new.
But Messi also transformed into a warrior after the Netherlands drew 2-2 in extra time in what could be his last fight on the big stage.
If purity of play was his trademark throughout the race, complaints against Dutch coach Louis van Gaal (with both hands over his ears), an insult to striker Wout Verghorst and Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoj after the game show a version of Messi. Diego is similar to Maradona, unbalanced with his feet with his tongue out.
It is also the mark that separates a team that, despite its playing abilities—Argentina has been superior to all rivals it has faced—has shown signs of a strong disposition to survive in the tournament’s top four. Their next opponent will be Croatia.
Messi said, “The Argentine is one of the four best players in the world because it shows that he knows how to play each game with the same desire and the same intensity.” “He understands the moments of the game. When he has to play, he does. When he also has to defend”.
What work did you do
The strong personality of their goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez, who was decisive in the penalty shootout by stopping back shots from Virgil van Dijk and Steven Barguis after an unexpected draw by the Dutch, once again resorted to unorthodox means to distract their rivals.
He did the same in the 2021 Copa America semi-final against Colombia, in which Albiceleste ended a streak of 28 years without a title.
“What I’ve learned from football is that they talk on the field, they talk a lot before games and that gives me a lot of energy,” said “Dibu” in reference to Van Gaal’s previous comments that his Coaches better be ready for one. Possible definition by pun. “You can’t talk so much before a game and pretend to win, it made me stronger and I told him so after the game.”
The match against the Netherlands was presented in previews as a tactical battle between Louis van Gaal (71), the oldest coach at the World Cup, and his Argentine colleague Lionel Scaloni, who at 44 was the youngest coach at the tournament. Were.
Scaloni bet on a change of plan, with the inclusion of defender Lisandro Martínez and forming a line of five defenders to incorporate the Netherlands’ play on the wings, particularly winger Denzel Dumfries.
The plan almost turned out to be perfect. It was Argentine full-backs Nahuel Molina with the first goal and Marcos Acuña with an overflow that led to a Dumfries foul in the area and a subsequent penalty kick by Messi.
When coach Lionel Scaloni was asked on Friday what differentiates his team from other depleted powers such as Spain, Brazil and Germany, the Argentine said: “It is the feeling of knowing how to face the situations at all times.” “We didn’t deserve to go to penalties, but still the team continued to show their face in a very difficult match.”
Argentina could not lock down a goal in the 90 minutes. A Netherlands, without clear ideas to attack, ended with the entry of Vergorst, an almost two-metre striker, who, less than ten minutes from the end, dismissed a header by imposing himself on the height of the German Pezzela.
The Turkish Besiktas attacker equalized in a set play in which he left Enzo Fernandez lying before heading into the net.
The other mole was warnings for wingers Acuña and Gonzalo Montiel, who would miss the game against Croatia due to the accumulation of two yellow cards.
Midfielder Rodrigo de Paul was unable to complete the match due to a muscle ailment, which kept him in doubt until the last minute. While for the second game in a row, winger Angel Di Maria was not part of the starting eleven.
Scaloni said the Juventus player is still not 100% contracted and has barely played the final minutes of extra time.
With the penalty he converted in the 90th minute, Messi added four goals in Qatar and a total of ten goals at the World Cup, equaling striker Gabriel Batistuta’s mark of top Argentina scorer in a single World Cup.
The Paris Saint-Germain star was also one game away from equaling German Lothar Matthaus as the player with the most appearances at the World Cup (25).
what will happen next
Croatia, the current world runners-up who were Brazil’s executioner in the quarter-finals.
The last predecessor did not leave a happy memory in Argentina. The Europeans beat them 3–0 in the first round of Russia 2018.
“Playing all seven games is an aim, but now that we are in the dance we have to keep dancing. We are going to face a great opponent like Croatia, it is going to be a good game and we hope We will get the job done”, Scaloni said.