The Argentine Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez Saved Two Spot-Kicks During The Shootout And Led His Team To Victory On Penalties 4-3.

By Rashmi Goel

Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi scored, assisted, and converted Argentina's first spot-kick after they beat the Netherlands 4-3 on penalties after they drew 2-2 in 120 minutes. After a thrilling extra-time draw, Argentina won 4-3 on penalties against the Netherlands to advance to the World Cup semi-finals. Emiliano Martinez was the hero of Argentina's shootout after Lionel Messi had put the South Americans on the brink of the last four with two goals in normal time. Weghorst scored two dramatic goals at the end of normal time to force extra time, the second from a remarkably inventive free kick in the 11th minute of stoppage time. Following Messi's brilliant assist for Nahuel Molina and a clinical penalty kick, the Argentines appeared well-positioned to reach the final four. A few hours after Brazil and Neymar were eliminated from the tournament on penalties by the Croats, Argentina came through to maintain interest in the competition among South Americans.

At least three-quarters of the 88,235 fans in the Lusail Stadium supported Argentina, with only a few orange shirts among them. However, all were treated to a thrilling late-night drama that ended just before 1 a.m. in the local time zone. In the ten minutes before the interval, Messi produced a moment of inspiration to score the opening goal for his team. In a rare display of precision, he split open the Netherlands defense 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 from the outside of the box. As a result, Dutch coach Luis van Gaal made a double substitution at the break, replacing Bergwijn and Marten De Roon with Teun Koopmeiners and Steven Berghuis in midfield.

While the Netherlands had plenty of balls, their play was predictable and careless. Argentines were in control and it came as no surprise when Messi scored from the penalty spot in the 73rd minute after Denzel Dumphries tripped Marcos Acuna in the box. Despite this, the Netherlands was not about to go out quietly as they pulled a goal back seven minutes from the end, with a header, angled and glancing, from Weghorst after he had responded to a Berghuis cross from deep. There were a couple of mass confrontations during the ten minutes of added time and the Dutch moved Van Dijk up front and pumped balls into the box in order to raise their hopes. A high ball just outside the area resulted in a free kick toward the end of the extra time. To everyone's surprise, Koopmeiners played a short pass to Weghorst, who twisted past Enzo Fernandez and poked the equalizer home.

Celebrations were over, extra time was played, and the game slowly becalmed until late in the second period. An effort from Lautaro Martinez was deflected off Van Djik, and another from Fernandez just cleared the bar. Then Lautaro forced a diving save from Noppert, Messi missed with a shot, and Fernandez missed with a long-range drive. Then it was penalties. A diving Martinez saved Van Dijk from the first attempt. Following that, Messi made no mistakes before Martinez made another save from Berghuis. Argentina prevailed in the shoot-out despite a missed opportunity from Fernandez for the Netherlands and advanced to the semi-finals.