Penalty shootout win: Martinez parries Argentina into semifinals – Sport

In a night long thriving on the genius of Lionel Messi, a goalkeeper named Damián “Dibu” Martínez became Argentina’s new hero. In a dramatic quarter-final shoot-out, he saved Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghuis’ penalties – and propelled the Argentines into the semi-finals against Croatia (Tuesday). Earlier, the Dutch had leveled Argentina’s 2-0 lead in the 11th minute of injury time with late substitute Wout Weghorst’s second goal. The Argentines shed tears of relief, while the Dutch shed tears of anger.

The Lusail Stadium, where Argentina suffered an embarrassing 2-1 defeat by Saudi Arabia, was crowded with people in white and blue shirts, the colors of Argentina. In between a few orange colored spots of paint. When the hymns were sung, one could almost get the impression that the number of 50,000 compatriots who had traveled to Lusail, which the Argentine media had announced, might actually be correct.

Messi was immediately present. Even before the Argentines could sing their homage to the eternal number “10”, Maradona (“oé, oeoeoee, Diegooo, Diegooo”) in the 10th minute, Messi had the attention of three, four, five Dutchmen with two or three solo actions attracted. They mobbed him as soon as he sewed the ball onto his left foot – a sign that at 35 he’s still capable of inciting panic.

It was as if he were the armor beneath which a basically limited Argentine team performed more positively, optimistically, bravely than their opponents. The Netherlands, on the other hand? They were so stingy with football that you didn’t know whether the speech in the Oranje dressing room had been given by Louis van Gaal – or by one of the austerity fetishists who have occupied the Dutch Treasury in recent years.

Penalty shootout victory: Lionel Messi converted his penalty safely.

Lionel Messi converted his penalty safely.

(Photo: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

The Argentinian lead, which was fully deserved, came from a little genius in the 35th minute. Messi received the ball from right-back Nahuel Molina in half-court. Messi accelerated, pulling Dutchmen onto him again – and found a passing line that existed in his imagination but not in front of the 90,000 spectators. The ball landed in the penalty area, where Molina reappeared. And like a futsal player, he peeked past the Dutch goalkeeper to make it 1-0. Lusail Stadium went through a transformation. Because in the stands, Messi was paid homage to, just like in the Camp Nou in Barcelona, ​​the old home of today’s Paris professional. “Meeessi, Meeessi,” cried the spectators, bowing with outstretched arms.

At half-time, the question was whether Spain’s ever pompous referee Mateu Lahoz would give in to his well-known tendency to draw the cameras’ lenses. On Friday, he made it before half-time through cards to Argentina’s assistant coach Walter Samuel and former Wolfsburg player Wout Weghorst, when he was still on the bench as a substitute. And no TV in the stadium suspected that Weghorst would still be mentioned.

Initially, the second half was characterized by Argentine restraint. They exercised order and control and largely let the Dutch have the ball. Hard to believe, but true: a team wearing the traditional Oranje jersey was unable to come up with even one valid idea.

Unlike Messi, who evoked orgiastic screams in the stadium every time he scrambled through the Dutch ranks, had his scenes. Or: When he aimed a free kick from 18 meters from the left half at the top right corner. Which was actually a fabulously absurd idea, because the chances of a hit couldn’t be smaller. But it was just Messi. And so the ball almost landed on the net, not in it. Shortly thereafter, however, it was 2-0 – in a different, no less absurd way.

Victory on penalties: After an unusual free-kick variant, Wout Weghorst scores to make it 2-2 late on.

After an unusual free-kick variant, Wout Weghorst scored late to make it 2-2.

(Photo: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

Ironically, left-back Acuña, who is not called “el Toro” for nothing, the “bull”, had leveraged his opponent Denzel Dumfries with a hook in the penalty area, which was almost reminiscent of Cruyff 1974. Dumfries dragged his foot across the floor, Acuña fell, Lahoz whistled – and pointed to the penalty spot. Messi converted to 2-0 (73rd). He spread his arms in a cross and disappeared under a bunch of comrades who, for understandable reasons, thought they were in the semifinals. But the game wasn’t over.

Van Gaal had substituted on Weghorst and Luuk de Jong, among others, for the last quarter of an hour – two strikers who are ideal if you only want to unpack the oldest tool in the world: the so-called crowbar. And it made an impact. Weghorst headed in the 83rd minute to make it 1:2. Shortly thereafter, Berghuis chased the ball to the side netting.

Shortly before the end, the game threatened to slip away, also because of the catastrophic performance of referee Lahoz: Argentina’s Leandro Paredes followed a rude foul on Nathan Aké with a shot at the Dutch bench – and thus triggered a tumult: The Dutch stormed from the bench Feld, thought of a scuffle, the Argentines held against it. When the situation had calmed down again, the dramatic stoppage time began: ten minutes were displayed. A constant siege of the Argentinian sixteen ensued, with central defender van Dijk as a backup centre-forward.

A finely played standard in the eleventh minute of added time ensured the equalizer – and extra time, before which there were also shoves. The rest was a matter of nerves. Lautaro Martínez (115′) had the best chance, his shot from seven meters was blocked; a long-range shot by Enzo Fernández was deflected onto the net, in the 119th Martínez tried again from 15 meters, in the 120th Fernández hit the post from 20 meters. But it came to penalties – with the better end for two-time world champions Argentina.

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