The Netherlands took a 2-0 lead with just eight minutes remaining thanks to goals from Nahuel Molina and Messi, as the Netherlands made a stunning comeback as Wout Weghorst’s brace ensured the match went to extra time.
With neither side able to find a winner in those extra 30 minutes, the match was decided in a penalty shootout and Argentina goalkeeper Aimee Martinez made himself the hero of the match. not albicelesti, Saving two Dutch penalty kicks.
Martinez made a name for himself as a penalty expert, making three saves in last year’s Copa America semi-final against Colombia, and cementing his status as Argentine hero in Qatar.
After Enzo Fernandez missed the first penalty that would have given Argentina victory, Lautaro Martínez stepped up and took the winning penalty to send thousands of Argentine fans inside Lusail Stadium into a delirium.
The Argentine players remained off the field long after the penalty shootout ended, much to the delight of their adoring fans who will no doubt be celebrating away in Qatar.
It was another great ending to a match in this World Cup, which had all sorts of bumps and comebacks, though this one probably outdid them all.
Certainly adding to the drama was Spanish referee Mateo Lahoz, known for his eccentricity and enjoyment of the limelight, handing out several yellow cards, including one in a penalty shoot-out, as he struggled to control the match.
There were no fewer than three mass brawls during the 120-minute penalty shootout, the first sparked by Leandro Paredes hitting a volley directly into the Dutch dugout on the side of the pitch.
It became difficult to keep track of which players were being disciplined by Lahoz, but according to FIFA, 18 yellow cards (two for Dumfries) and one red card were waved during the quarter-finals.
This match will undoubtedly become a World Cup classic, but Argentina will quickly need to get themselves back on the ground ahead of their semi-final clash against specialist knockout Croatia.
Millions of Argentines dream of the day Messi emulates the late Diego Maradona and lifts the World Cup. This day is now one step closer.
The 35-year-old Messi did everything he could to ensure Argentina had the best possible chance of winning their first World Cup title since 1986.
There have been fleeting moments of Messi’s magic that football fans have become accustomed to seeing over the years, most notably his masterful touch and finishing against Mexico in the group stage that gave Argentina a decisive run after the shock defeat to Saudi Arabia.
Few fans would have placed Argentina among the pre-tournament favourites, but with Messi in the squad anything is possible, at any time.
Under coach Lionel Scaloni, the former Argentine international, the team is in a better place than it has been in some time, and in 2021 won the Copa America, the team’s first major trophy since 1993 and Messi’s first in the iconic blue. And a white shirt.
However, Argentina had yet to put together a convincing 90 minutes in Qatar, and the defensive weaknesses that have hampered them in recent years still remain.
Meanwhile, the Dutch failed to impress in the group stages, but improved dramatically in a 3-1 round of 16 win over the US men’s national team, Memphis Depay’s opening goal in that game, no impatient and checking team move. Doubt one of the best goals of the tournament so far.
This was the sixth World Cup meeting between these two teams and this match has provided a lot of history over the years. From Mario Kempes’ inspired triumph in the 1978 final to Dennis Bergkamp’s stunning goal in the 1998 quarter-finals, this rivalry was poised for another player to write their name into football folklore.
The opening 35 minutes was predictably guarded, with neither side willing to take too much risk in possession.
But, unsurprisingly, it was Messi who opened the stubborn Netherlands defense with a ridiculous, almost impossible moment of genius.
The Argentina captain ran towards the left side of the penalty area, and performed a reverse cross-pass perfectly into the path of Molina, who took a one-touch shot and volleyed the ball past Andres Nobert.
Replays showed that Messi did not look once to see Molina running. How he saw the pass, let alone played it, only he knows. Just when you think you’ve seen everything in his 18-year career, Messi still finds a way to leave mouths excited.
When Messi stepped up to make it 2-0 from the penalty spot after 75 minutes, it looked like the game was over. However, if there is one thing the World Cup in Qatar has shown, it is that these matches will never end until the full-time referee blows.
Having offered very little for more than 80 minutes, Holland opted to strike long ball after long ball into the Argentina penalty area, targeting 6ft 6in substitute Wieghorst and Virgil van Dijk.
It paid off spectacularly, as Wighorst deftly headed in after Steven Bergwisz’s delivery with less than eight minutes remaining.
This goal set up a grandstand end, which featured the first of three team brawls.
With almost the last action of the match, the Netherlands were awarded a free kick just outside the penalty area.
It looked as if either Cody Gakbo or Teun Copminerz were on their way to shooting a shot on goal, but the latter played a deft pass to Weghurst, who converted his defender and volleyed the ball past Martinez.
This goal sparked wild scenes as the entire Netherlands bench emptied to celebrate the corner flag, silencing thousands of Argentina fans who were very noisy throughout the match.
It was an almost unimaginable turn of events with Weghorst, who struggled to make an impact at Burnley and is currently on loan at Besiktas, temporarily halting Messi’s seemingly inevitable run towards the World Cup title.
However, Messi and Argentina were not denied and kept their cool from the spot to cap off a fantastic evening of football.
Other agonizing scenes followed, as some of the Argentina team celebrated in the faces of the stunned Dutch players once Martínez scored the winning penalty, causing tension to flare up again.
Messi is now close to lifting the World Cup for the first time, and it will take something special to stop an amazing player who seems so determined to lift the trophy he craves most.
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