Argentina's quarter-final against the Netherlands promised to be a classic and it delivered in spades as Lionel Messi inspired the South Americans to a 4-3 penalty shootout victory in Qatar. Messi scored one and set up another as the match ended 2-2 after full-time and extra time, with goalkeeper Emilio Martinez the hero for Argentina in the shootout.
Messi converted his penalty from the spot and Martinez saved two attempts, with forward Lautaro Martinez scoring the clinching penalty that sent Argentina through to the semi-finals where they will face Croatia. The Croats also booked their spot in the last four via penalties after knocking out World Cup favourites Brazil in a shock result earlier in the day.
For Argentina, it's is only the second time they have reached the last four since 1990, with Messi part of the team that lost the 2014 final to Germany in Brazil. However, Messi's dream of adding the one major trophy that has so far eluded his is still alive after the 35-year-old put on a masterful display against a Dutch side that went down fighting.
Messi had produced a mesmerising piece of skill to set up the opening goal for Nahuel Molina in the 35th minute, with an incredible through-ball that dissected the Netherlands defence with surgical precision. He then converted a penalty in the 73rd to make it 2-0 with his fourth goal of this year's World Cup.
Argentina looked home and dry but the Netherlands refused to give up and had substitute Wout Weghorst to thank for two late goals - the second from an audacious free-kick routine 11 minutes into stoppage time. Teun Koopmeiners feigned to curl a free kick into the area, only to play it short to Weghorst and completely deceive the Argentine defence.
NOOOOOOO. WAAAAAYYYYY. 😱😱😱
The Netherlands are taking this to extra-time after scoring in the 11TH MINUTE of stoppage time! 🔥🔥🔥
📺 WATCH: https://t.co/BHQxGe8zBq
📻 LISTEN: https://t.co/Mc8ZSpkEj3 #SBSWorldCup #WeAllSpeakFootball #FIFAWorldCup pic.twitter.com/rp9Tw9iWTL
— SBS Sport (@SBSSportau) December 9, 2022
The big Dutch forward swept the ball into the net for what turned out to be the latest second-half goal scored in a knockout stage game in World Cup history.
A wild match that contained a FIFA World Cup record of 17 yellow cards threatened to boil over on numerous occasions as tempers on both sides heated up. Players on and off the pitch had to be separated as melees almost broke out on more than one occasion.
Viewers were beside themselves watching the 'ridiculous' scenes unfold, with Argentina eventually sealing victory in the penalty shootout, despite Enzo Fernandez shooting wide from his effort. Martinez's two saves from Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghuis and Lautaro Martinez's winning kick capped off an astonishing match that sent the football world into meltdown.
— SBS Sport (@SBSSportau) December 9, 2022
Argentina, Netherlands is the most insane game of the World Cup... WHAT AM I WATCHING RN?!?!?!
— Jake Barford (@BFordLancer48) December 9, 2022
Lionel Messi The GOAT 🐐👑
What a win for Argentina at penalty shootout vs Netherlands. Take a bow to goalkeeper 🇦🇷 🙏#Messi #Messi𓃵 #GOAT𓃵 #GOAT#LionelMessi #LeoMessi #Argentina pic.twitter.com/MiCIw0Y4lp
— Ashutosh Srivastava (@kingashu1008) December 9, 2022
— 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐍𝐞𝐰𝐬 (@sportingnews) December 9, 2022
Geez I mean we knew Argentina - Netherlands was going to be amazing but this is ridiculous!!!
— Victoria Jackson (@HistoryRunner) December 9, 2022
Netherlands vs Argentina has a new record for being the most dramatic game of the 2022 World Cup 💉
— Guinness World Records (@GWR) December 9, 2022
Netherlands vs Argentina in normal time:
⚽️ 4 Goals
😲 1 Stoppage time equaliser
🟨10 yellow cards
🤼♂️ 2 Royal Rumbles pic.twitter.com/9Aiefo2brE
— ODDSbible (@ODDSbible) December 9, 2022
The referee for the Argentina vs Netherlands match be like
"You get a card ,you get a card everyone gets a card"😂 pic.twitter.com/wmW3iEp1uD
— MR KIMM™ 🇰🇪 (@Keam_254) December 9, 2022
Argentina, Messi & the hope stays alive!
The celebration should be a collective sigh of relief after that dramatic-ridiculous-extra-time-shootout of a battle
Gotta feel for Netherlands, even more for the brave LvG
But I'm rooting for a different last dance this #FIFAWorldCup
— Zenia D'cunha (@ZENIADCUNHA) December 9, 2022
Argentina Netherlands game might be the most insane game I’ve seen in years
— Gary (@GarrettMcgeough) December 9, 2022
Messi's second half penalty took him to 10 goals in the World Cup, tied with Argentinean great Gabriel Batistuta for the most in the nation's history, and 94 goals in total from his 169 international games.
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 Nahuel Molina who timed his run perfectly and slotted home with the outside of his foot.
Dutch coach Luis 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.
Netherlands storm back with two late goals
As the second half wore on, all the momentum was with the Argentines and it was no surprise when they extended their lead in the 73rd minute after Denzel Dumphries tripped Marcos Acuna in the box and Messi made no mistake from the spot, burying the ball in the corner. The Dutch were not about to go out with a whimper and had Weghorst to thank for a brace that sent the match into extra time.
From there, it was mainly all Argentina as Lautaro Martinez saw a powerful goal-bound shot deflected off Van Djik and then another deflected effort, from Fernandez, flew just over the bar. Lautaro then forced a diving save from Noppert, Messi screwed a shot wide and Fernandez's long-range drive hit the post.
Fernandez's missed penalty was another blow to the highly regarded midfielder, but fortunately it didn't prove costly as the South Americans advanced.
There was only despair for the continent's other powerhouse Brazil, who were bundled out by 2018 finalists Croatia 4-2 on penalties. The match ended goalless after 90 minutes, with Neymar's extra time goal - which saw him equal Pele's all-time goals record for the national team - cancelled out by a late Bruno Petkovic equaliser.
The Croats then kept their composure from the penalty spot after Brazil's Rodrygo had the first penalty saved by goalkeeping hero Dominik Livakovic, before Marquinhos struck the post with his crucial fourth effort. Nikola Vlasic, Lovro Majer, Luka Modric and Mislav Orsic were all successful from the spot for Croatia.
Bizarrely, it meant that Brazil's best penalty-taker did not even take a spot-kick, with Neymar presumably set to come in at No.5. The Paris Saint-Germain forward was inconsolable on the pitch after the final whistle, as fans were left in disbelief that the favourites to lift the World Cup title had been eliminated.
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