Lionel Messi guides Argentina to shoot-out win over Netherlands at World Cup

South Americans secure 4-3 victory on penalties after manic quarter-final match on Friday

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Maybe this is Argentina’s year, after all. From 2-0 up to pegged back in the dying seconds, ultimately they pushed through.

They prevailed on penalties against the Netherlands amid the boiled tension and the bedlam at Lusail Stadium on Friday night and some of Saturday morning, too, Lionel Messi’s last dance sustaining through – somehow - to the semi-finals.

Emiliano Martinez proved the hero, repelling Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghuis in the shoot-out and leaving Lautaro Martinez to seal it. Argentina, the South American champions, could still rule the world, as well.

Oh, how did it get to that? Lionel Scaloni’s men were there, a matter of seconds and two matches from a third World Cup crown, and then they weren’t.

Two to the good with seven minutes of normal time remaining, by the 101st it was 2-2 and the Doha exit door was suddenly ajar.

But Argentina, with all that pressure, with all the pressure of Messi’s final fling, stood strong, sometimes too forceful in a contest that comprised 14 yellow cards and several melees, to continue in Qatar.

On Tuesday, they meet Croatia, conquerors of Brazil earlier on a frenetic Friday, a day in complete keeping with this utterly bonkers, fantastic finals. But that can wait for now.

Long before the stress of the shoot-out, it had all seemed pretty straightforward. Messi had appeared to mastermind another success, the captain assisting Argentina’s first with a pass to Nahuel Molina that only perhaps he could conjure, then doubling their lead from the penalty spot. There were only 17 minutes of normal time to go.

But the Dutch struck back through a Wout Weghorst double. The substitute headed home on 83 minutes and then, when tempers blew and rage ran through Argentine veins, he finished off a cunning free-kick routine to spark yet more mayhem. The clock had crept past its ton; 60 seconds and more beyond the original tally of injury-time.

In between, Leandro Parades chopped down Nathan Ake, then booted the ball straight into the Netherlands dugout and a huge fracas broke out. Parades was, rightfully booked; Ake too, although he appeared not to have done much.

In the break before extra-time, both squads came together once more, the bookings bloating to 12, including one for Argentine coach Walter Samuel.

Late on in extra-time, boths side thought they had snatched it, but Enzo Fernandez blocked from Luuk De Jong, Virgil van Dijk did likewise from Lautaro Martinez, Fernandez’s deflected effort dipped inches over the Netherlands crossbar, and Andries Noppert repelled Martinez.

In the very final minute, Martinez rattled from range the upright. No one inside Lusail could catch a breath.

But Emi Martinez regulated his, saving the first two penalties he faced, pushing away Van Dijk and Berghuis. And, despite Fernandez then missing too, Argentine did it. Lautaro Martinez kept his cool, and Argentina, at the end of a truly manic match, kept on.

Updated: December 09, 2022, 10:25 PM