World Cup: Argentina reach semi-finals on penalties after Dutch comeback
LUSAIL, Qatar - Argentina beat the Netherlands 4-3 in a penalty shootout to keep Lionel Messi’s World Cup dream alive on Friday, after the Dutch had snatched a 2-2 draw from the jaws of defeat in an extraordinary quarter-final.
Emiliano Martinez saved the first two Dutch penalties to give Argentina a huge advantage and Lautaro Martinez sent Andries Noppert the wrong way to set up a date for the South Americans with Croatia in the semi-finals on Tuesday.
Messi celebrated with arms aloft in front of the massed ranks of Argentina fans, his hopes of securing football’s biggest prize at the fifth attempt intact for a few more days.
“Argentina are among the four best in the world because they show that they know how to play every game with the same desire and the same intensity,” said the 35-year-old Messi.
“A lot of joy, a lot of happiness. We didn’t have to go to extra time or penalties, we had to suffer. But we got through and it’s impressive.”
A third bench-clearing melee of the match were a backdrop to Messi’s celebrations as some of the Dutch players, distraught after coming so close to one of the greatest comebacks in World Cup history, clashed with their Argentine rivals.
A total of 16 yellow cards were shown throughout the contest by Spanish referee Antonio Mateu, and Dutch wingback Denzel Dumfries was sent off after the final whistle for his part in the final brawl.
Apparently on their way home at 2-0 down with only seven minutes of normal time remaining, the Dutch scored twice through substitute Wout Weghorst to send the match to two scoreless periods of extra time.
Messi, almost inevitably, had played a major role in giving Argentina their lead.
While it was Nahuel Molina’s goal that put Argentina ahead in the 35th minute, it was Messi who unlocked a suffocating Dutch defence that had snuffed out any previous chances.
Taking the ball 40 metres out, he ghosted to his left in front of a wall of markers before sliding a pass back to the right to Molina on the edge of the box.
The wingback took a touch and poked the ball past onrushing goalkeeper Andries Noppert to send the vast majority of the 88,235 crowd at Lusail Stadium into paroxysms of delight.