LUSAIL: Lionel Messi’s Argentina edged Netherlands 4-3 on the penalty shoot-out at the Lusail Stadium to qualify for the semi-finals after the nailbiting last-eight tie finished 1-1 at the end of extra time.
The enthralling quarter-final finished at 2-2 after the extra time leveller from Dutch substitute Wout Weghorst neutralized Argentina’s lead in the closing moments of the injury time.
Argentina started the match on a high as Albiceleste found the breakthrough in the first courtesy of their star player Messi, who darted through the midfield and threaded a pass into the box. Nahuel Molina latched onto it and fired the ball past Andries Noppert.
Both sides went hard at each other in the heated last-eight clash that saw the second-most yellow card in any match of the ongoing world cup and the Dutch as a result, made a costly error when Marcos Acuna dribbled into the box but brought down by the trailing leg of the defender and referee wasted no time to award Argentina a penalty.
Messi stepped for Argentina with calmness and composure and buried the penalty into the corner to put his side in command.
Following Messi’s strike, it seemed to be a straightforward affair for Argentina before the Dutch substitute Weghorst glimmered a ray of hope with a sensational header in the 83rd minute.
It was still not enough for Louis van Gaal’s side to turn the tables and they desperately needed to fire an equalizer to force the match into extra time and Weghorst stepped up again for his team with a brilliant strike off Teun Koopmeiners’ assist in the 11th minute of the stoppage time.
The pumped-up Dutch, however, failed to put on a show in the shoot-out as Virgil van Dijk came out to open for his side but Emiliano Martínez dived to his right to save. Messi followed and made no mistake before Martinez saved again from Steven Berghuis.
Those two misses were enough to haunt the Dutch as even despite a miss from Enzo Fernandez, Argentina held on to win the shoot-out and stormed into the semi-finals.