Argentina beat Dutch and go into semis after late-night drama
Messi slams referee after Argentina win on penalties: Goalkeeper Martinez saves Argentina from Cup heartbreak
December 10, 2022 09:54 AM
Argentina set up a semi-final showdown with Croatia after beating the Netherlands 4-3 on penalties following a thrilling 2-2 extra-time draw in a World Cup quarter-final classic.
Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was the hero in the shootout for the South Americans after Argentina squandered a Lionel Messi-engineered two-goal lead in the final minutes of normal time.
Dutch substitute Wout Weghorst scored two late goals -- the second from an inventive free-kick in the 11th minute of stoppage time -- as the Netherlands fought back with seven minutes of normal time remaining to force extra-time.
Argentina looked poised for the last four after Messi conjured up a brilliant assist for Nahuel Molina and a clinical goal from the penalty spot.
"It's a lot of joy, a lot of relief," said Messi.
"We didn't want extra-time or penalties. We suffered too much because of how everything happened, but it is the quarter-finals of a World Cup. We knew how to suffer when it was our turn, but we got through to the semi-finals.
"It's beautiful, something impressive," he added.
For the Dutch it was a bitterly disappointing end to their tournament and they have now lost six of their last eight shoot-outs in major championships since 1992.
"We have been practicing penalties all year and despite everything we failed. It's a shame," said coach Louis van Gaal.
"As a coach, I want to have everything under control. That's why I asked the players to take penalties for their clubs, they all did. But if you miss two, you won't win. You just can't get over a streak like this," he said.
The Lusail Stadium was turned into home for Argentina with the vast majority of the 88,235 crowd backing the South American team and only a smattering of orange shirts in the crowd.
But all were treated to a thrilling late-night drama that finally reached its conclusion just before 1 a.m. local time on Saturday.
After a cagey start, Messi produced a moment of inspiration, ten minutes before the interval, to create the opener for his team.
Offering no clues of his intent, he split open the Dutch defence with a sublime reverse pass between Daley Blind and Virgil van Dijk into the path of Molina who timed his run perfectly and slotted home with the outside of his foot.
Van Gaal responded at the break by making a double change, bringing Teun Koopmeiners and Steven Berghuis on into midfield in place of Bergwijn and Marten De Roon.
But while the Dutch saw plenty of the ball their play remained too predictable and guileless.
- Free-kick genius -
Deservedly, the Argentines extended their lead in the 73rd minute after Denzel Dumfries tripped Marcos Acuna in the box and Messi made no mistake from the spot, burying the ball in the corner.
The Dutch, though, were not about to go out with a whimper -- pulling a goal back, seven minutes from the end, with an angled glancing header from Weghorst from a Berghuis cross from deep.
Ten minutes of added time raised Dutch hopes and - tempers with a couple of mass confontations - and they moved Van Dijk up front and pumped balls int the box.
Deep into added time, one of those high balls, led to a free-kick just outside the area.
Koopmeiners feigned an expected shot before instead, to everyone's surprise, playing a short pass into Weghorst, who twisted past Enzo Fernandez and poked home the equaliser.
The wild celebrations over, the game went into extra-time and curiously became becalmed, only sparking back into life late in the second period.
In a frantic final two minutes, Lautaro Martinez forced a diving save out of Noppert and Messi screwed a shot wide and only the post kept out a long-range drive from Fernandez.
After all that, it was penalties.
Martinez saved from Van Dijk and Berghuis to help Argentina into a 2-0 lead.
This time there was no way back for the Dutch as, even despite a miss from Fernandez, Argentina held on to win the shoot-out and head into the semi-finals.
Messi slams referee
Lionel Messi said referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz should not have officiated Argentina's tempestuous shootout victory over the Netherlands in the World Cup quarter-finals at Lusail Stadium.
Argentina won on penalties early on Saturday after a dramatic 2-2 draw in which Dutch substitute Wout Weghorst scored twice late on, including a last-gasp equaliser from a short free-kick awarded when German Pezzella shoved over Weghorst.
"After they got the draw I felt a lot of anger," said Messi. "I don't want to talk about the referee, because they immediately reprimand you or sanction you, but I think people saw what happened.
"FIFA has to review that, it can't give a referee like that a match of this importance, when they're not up to the task."
He added: "We didn't have a great game, and then the referee sent it to extra time. He was always against us. In the last play, it was not a foul."
Mateu Lahoz showed 16 yellow cards in total, with Netherlands wing-back Denzel Dumfries sent off after the penalty shootout for a second booking.
Messi had scored his fourth goal of the tournament from the spot in the 73rd minute after an earlier assist for Nahuel Molina's opener.
Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was the hero, saving the Netherlands' first two penalties before Lautaro Martinez struck the winning kick.
"We didn't want extra time or penalties," said Messi. "We suffered too much because of how everything happened, but it is the quarter-finals of a World Cup.
"We knew how to suffer when it was our turn, but we got through to the semi-finals. It's beautiful, something impressive."
Goalkeeper Martinez saves Argentina from Cup heartbreak
Emiliano Martinez came to the rescue for Argentina on a remarkable night of drama by saving two Netherlands penalties in the shootout to send his country through to the World Cup semi-finals.
The Aston Villa goalkeeper was barely tested for the best part of 90 minutes as Argentina swept into a two-goal lead before substitute Wout Weghorst engineered an incredible Dutch fightback in the quarter-final.
Argentina were stunned as Weghorst equalised in the 11th minute of added time, forcing an extra 30 minutes to the astonishment of the 88,235 in attendance at Lusail Stadium -- nearly all of those rooting for Lionel Messi and his teammates.
But Martinez seized his opportunity to be the hero just when it looked as if Argentina were set to face more World Cup agony, flying to his right to palm away Virgil van Dijk's opening effort from the spot.
After Messi, who had doubled Argentina's lead during the game with a penalty, coolly rolled home his team's first attempt, Martinez flung himself to his left to deny Steven Berghuis.
Enzo Fernandez drilled wide with the chance to win it for Argentina, but Lautaro Martinez made no mistake with their following kick, setting up a clash with 2018 runners-up Croatia.
"I feel the emotion. What I do, I do for 45 million (Argentinians) who are going through a bad economic crisis," said Martinez.
"Giving joy to people is the best thing that happens to me at the moment.
"The guys were tired, I felt they needed help but I wasn't able to do anything. Thankfully, I was able to do it later by saving two penalties."
The win not only kept alive Messi's dream of finally getting his hands on the World Cup trophy, but came just hours after Argentina's great rivals Brazil crashed out of the tournament on penalties to the Croatians.
- Copa starring role -
At 35, Messi knows this will be his fifth and final World Cup -- and a winner's medal would burnish his legacy as one of football's greatest ever players, placing him right alongside compatriot Diego Maradona and Pele.
But it could all have been over had it not been for Martinez, who also played a starring role in the 2021 Copa America triumph, which ended Argentina's 28-year title drought.
Martinez saved three attempts in a semi-final shootout victory over Colombia before being named goalkeeper of the tournament after keeping a clean sheet in the 1-0 win against hosts Brazil in the final.
"We knew as he'd done against Colombia he could save some penalties," said Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni.
Martinez was named goalkeeper of the tournament, but it has been a long and winding road to the top for a player who spent 10 years at Arsenal before finally finding a place to call home.
He conceded five goals on his second appearance for the Gunners in the League Cup, a match best remembered for Arsenal's comeback from four goals down at Reading in a 7-5 win.
Martinez's time at the Gunners was mostly spent on loan in the English lower leagues, and he looked destined for a career as a journeyman before fellow Premier League club Aston Villa bought him for a reported £20 million ($24.5 million) in September 2020.
He became Villa's starting keeper right away and by the end of that season he had emerged as first choice for Argentina, making his debut 10 years after his first call-up.
Over the past year he has entrenched himself as Argentina's undisputed number one, a reliable presence the Albiceleste were sorely missing four years ago in Russia -- and one they hope can lead them to a third World Cup crown.