Argentina beat the Netherlands 4-3 on penalties after a sensational 2-2 draw at the Lusail Stadium, sending Lionel Messi into the semi-final.
Argentina led 2-0 before being pegged back at the last in an aggressive match featuring 14 yellow cards.
A sensational Messi pass created the first-half opener for Nahuel Molina. There were six players between him and the goal, and nothing seemed on. Even right wing-back Molina, cutting inside, must have felt he was moving in speculation rather than expectation.
The thought of playing the pass never seemed to cross Messi’s mind. Then, with a glance into the peripheries, and a flick of his left-boot, the Argentina superstar played Molina in on goal. It hit him in a half-stride of space, space which only appeared as the ball arrived at the Atletico Madrid full-back’s feet.
Molina dinked the ball over Andries Noppert, and Argentina were ahead. He only touched the ball 20 times in the first-half, the third-fewest of any player. Each one felt crucial.
Then, after 70 minutes, he converted a penalty when Marcus Acuna was fouled by Denzel Dumfries, gently chipping the ball past Noppert.
One reason nobody saw that pass coming is that Messi just doesn’t pass at that angle when he’s dribbling to his left https://t.co/SzXgdLunWp https://t.co/2ULeKsvab6 pic.twitter.com/VUaS72Hv1n
— John Muller (@johnspacemuller) December 9, 2022
The Netherlands lacked fight for long periods, having only had one shot before the penalty put them two goals behind. However, Wout Weghorst’s header after 82 minutes, their first shot on target, gave them hope.
Launching the ball long during 10 long minutes of added-time, a brawl broke out after Leandro Paredes’ strong challenge of Nathan Ake, and subsequently walloped the ball towards the Netherlands bench.
Cody Gakpo hit a late free-kick into the wall, and after 100 minutes, it looked as if he would attempt another. However, instead Teun Koopmeiners rolled the ball under the wall towards Weghorst, who forced the ball beyond Emi Martinez into the Argentina net.
Substitute Lautaro Martinez had the first clear chance of extra-time, thundering a cut-back into the chest of Virgil van Dijk at the start of the second period.
A spinning effort with two minutes left forced Noppert into another save, before Messi’s effort was deflected inches wide. The subsequent corner from Angel di Maria almost snuck inside Noppert’s post, before Enzo Fernandez hit the base of the post with a last-gasp snapshot. Penalties.
Van Dijk, taking first for the Netherlands, had his spot-kick saved by Martinez. Messi rolled the ball past Noppert in response.
Martinez then saved again from Berghuis, diving to his left this time. Once more, Argentina responded by scoring through Paredes.
Koopmeiners scored for the Netherlands, before Gonzalo Montiel was also successful. Weghorst, the hero of normal time, needed to score, and did.
That gave Fernandez the chance to win it. The 21-year-old, with a straight run-up, sent it wide of Noppert’s right-hand post. Luuk de Jong still had to score, and sent Martinez the wrong way.
Once more, Argentina were one penalty away from victory. Martinez blasted the ball into the top corner to send Argentina into the semi-final.
Key moment of Netherlands vs Argentina
It looked set to be that Messi pass. Then, after over 100 minutes, Koopmeiners stood over a free-kick where everybody expected him to shoot. Koopmeiners used to have a Thierry Henry poster on his bedroom wall but he never made it as a striker. Only two years old when France won the Euros in Rotterdam, and like so many kids of that generation, he channelled Zinedine Zidane on the playground. “Elegance personified,” he said.
With that perhaps in mind, he rolled it under the wall into the feet of Weghorst — a player who suffered a nightmare half-season at Burnley at the end of 2021-22.
The Argentina defence failed to react, and Weghorst got just enough on his shot to squeeze the ball past Martinez. Extra-time awaited, Argentina stunned. Weghorst scored as many goals against Argentina in 20 minutes as he did in 1457 minutes for Burnley last season.
Player of the match — Lionel Messi
It was more than just that pass. Messi was the conduit for every piece of Argentine imagination, swerving and shuffling around a Netherlands midfield which could barely lay a boot on him.
His penalty, chipping the ball into the corner of Noppert’s net, capped the performance. Nobody saw the late comeback coming — but Messi was still the best player on the pitch.
This is basically starting to feel like an audience with Lionel Messi. Fans literally bowing here at his latest flash of quality.
— Adam Crafton (@AdamCrafton_) December 9, 2022
Via Opta, Messi now has the most knockout assists in World Cup history. To think he was criticised for not scoring in the World Cup knockouts.
5 – Lionel Messi has assisted five goals in the World Cup knockout stages – since Opta have World Cup assists (from 1966), this is the most on record in the knockout rounds of the finals, surpassing Pelé’s four. Goat. pic.twitter.com/ScHbh5oj1b
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 9, 2022
Then, if a second statistic is allowed, Weghorst scored the latest goal in ordinary-time ever at a World Cup, with his equaliser timed at 100 minutes and 30 seconds.
Argentina progress to the semi-final, the second of Messi’s career. They will play 2018 finalists Croatia, who beat Brazil 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw, denying a meeting of the South American giants in the last four.
(Photo: Getty Images)
[Video] Youtube Emiliano Martinez's heroics in shootout send Argentina to semi-finals | FIFA World Cup 2022™ Moments
HE’S A KEEPER! Emiliano Martinez heroics send Argentina through to semi-finals.
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