LUSAIL, Qatar – Lionel Messi and Argentina survived one of the fiercest matches of the 2022 World Cup with a penalty shootout. Aimee Martinez stood to his right and then to his left to make a great save. Messi converted to give Argentina the lead on penalties, and from there, against regulation, the Argentines never looked back.
They blew a 2-0 advantage in the last 20 minutes of regulation. The Netherlands conjured up a key set-piece goal 11 minutes into second-half stoppage time to send the match into extra time, and eventually penalties.
From the site, Argentina started to perfect. Leading 2-0 and 3-1. And threatened to win another lead when Enzo Fernandez pulled his effort away. But Lautaro Martinez turned in the clutch. Aimee Martinez, the champion goalkeeper, fell to the ground in relief. Messi was lifted into the air by his teammates.
But before the penalty shootout, for more than an hour, the story of Friday’s game was Messi’s pass. His ascent to another planet was in the 34th minute. He looked up and saw six orange shirts holding him back. So it turned into a comprehensive look. He looked over and picked a ball from outside the ground, through four Dutch players and onto a teammate’s feet, to lead 1-0.
He later converted a penalty kick in the 73rd minute. He lunged towards his adoring fans and spread his arms as his teammates spilled onto the pitch. He, and they, were up 2-0 and sailing into the semi-finals.
But then disaster struck. Dutch threw at Weghorst, and began pumping long balls into his feet, his chest, and into his head. It became clear fairly quickly that Argentina could not cope.
Weghorst’s first record with a trademark head. And suddenly, Argentina was barely hanging on.
The game has become an absolute mess, full of yellow cards and brawls. Much of the madness was due to Argentina’s determination. And until the last minute of injury time, it was beneficial.
The stroke of the Dutch genius that nearly ended Messi’s World Cup career started at a standstill. That was the 101st minute of a frantic quarter-final here at Lusail Stadium, shortly after a controversial foul. Argentina led 2-1 with one foot in the semi-finals, but the Netherlands had a dangerous free kick that they definitely had to score. And they did, just as Argentina had done before, with a pass that no soul expected to come.
The retreat began with a highly enthusiastic slog from German Pezzella at the rear of Weghorst. It was Holland’s second free kick in such a situation, from close to centre, 25 yards out. The Dutch had smashed the former into the wall. All of Argentina is ready for a similar attempt. And Teun Koopmeiners seemed to step into the ball to do just that.
But instead, he made a brilliant pass to Weghorst, and executed a play the Dutch had cooked up on the training ground.
she was Eerily similar to the play Argentina used against England to earn a 2-2 tie (and eventually win on penalties) in the 1998 World Cup.
It was a foregone answer to Messi’s genius, the collective brilliance to match his individual brilliance. Only the Netherlands could not handle the same energy in extra time and after both teams went goalless in the added 30 minutes, it was time for Amy Martinez to do his thing.
Not albiceleste You will play against Croatia on Tuesday. And their fans are thrilled with this. Around 8:40pm here, with 80 minutes to go until kick-off, many gathered around the phones and media watchers to watch their arch-rivals, Brazil, duel Croatia from the penalty spot. When Marquinhos hit the post and Brazil lost, the blue-and-white assistants erupted. Hundreds, perhaps thousands who had already gathered behind a single target quickly burst into song. The path was clear.
Outside Lusail Stadium, television reporters went straight to Argentina in shock: “Brasil está fuera de Copa del Mundo.” Brazil out of the World Cup.
They’ll close the night by saying: Argentina are very much alive and two steps away from Messi’s elusive glory.
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