Messi pays tribute to Maradona after World Cup brilliance

Argentina storm in semi-finals after enthralling win in penalty shootout against the Netherlands

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Lionel Messi said Argentina have felt the presence of the late Diego Maradona throughout their World Cup campaign, including on Friday when they beat the Netherlands on penalties to reach the semi-finals.

Messi looked to have inspired Argentina into a last four clash with Croatia after he set up Nahuel Molina's opener before the break and added the second from the penalty spot.

But Argentina blew a two-goal lead deep into stoppage time before goalkeeper Emi Martinez kept his cool to save the first two Dutch penalties and Lautaro Martinez scored the decisive spot kick to send them through.

"Diego is watching us from heaven. He is pushing us and I really hope this stays the same until the end," Messi told reporters.

"When Lautaro scored and we qualified there was a huge joy. It was a weight off our chest," Messi added. "It was a very hard match. From the beginning it was a really tough match, we knew it would be this way.

"We leave that on the pitch with our people. We were really happy and we enjoyed that moment and that's what we can see here and also in Argentina because people are really happy, they are really excited and they are full of enthusiasm.

"The Dutch team made trouble for us with long balls and a lot of players in the area. In the end they drew and we suffered. But we were able to seal our passage to the semi-finals, which is what we wanted."

Meanwhile Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal said his team's loss was "incredibly painful".

Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghuis watched in agony as their spot-kicks were saved in the shootout.

"We failed to score the first two penalties so that's when things become really hard and tough. It is a matter of being lucky, a lottery," said Van Gaal.

The 71-year-old was also coach of the Netherlands when they were beaten on penalties by Argentina in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup.

"This is the second time we lost to Argentina this way. Two World Cups with the same coach for the Netherlands.

"I asked the players to train and to practise penalties, so I have nothing to reproach them for. To come back and equalise... to lose on penalties is unfortunate."

Meanwhile, there was tragedy during the game as Grant Wahl, a well-known football writer in the United States, died on Saturday while covering the match between Argentina and the Netherlands.

US media seated near him said Wahl fell back in his seat in a section of the Lusail Stadium reserved for journalists during extra time of the game, and reporters adjacent to him called for assistance. Emergency services workers responded very quickly and reporters later were told that Wahl had died.

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Updated: December 10, 2022, 7:23 AM