Argentina defeated Netherlands on penalties after a breathless 2-2 draw to reach the World Cup semi-finals today.
The opening stages gave us little to report. Steven Bergwijn dragged a shot wide from the edge of the box with an early chance.
But in the 35th minute, Argentina took the lead. Lionel Messi picked out Nahuel Molina with a brilliant through ball, and the full-back poked into the bottom corner for his first international goal.
Early in the second half, Messi came close to doubling his side’s advantage from a free kick. However, his attempt flew just over the crossbar.
But the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner was able to add to his tally a few minutes later. Denzel Dumfries brought down Marcos Acuna, and Messi stepped up and finished his penalty into the bottom right corner.
With under ten minutes remaining, two substitutes combined to give the Oranje a lifeline. Steven Berghuis picked out Wout Weghorst with a cross, and he glanced his header into the far corner.
Seconds later, they came within inches of netting an equaliser. Luuk de Jong nodded down for Berghuis, and his powerful strike went narrowly wide.
It seemed as if the South American side were going to hold out for the victory, right up until the dying second when Netherlands nicked an equaliser. Teun Koopmeiners’ clever free-kick found Weghorst, and he poked the ball past Emiliano Martinez to take the game to extra time.
As the game approached its end, La Albiceleste had several chances to go back in front. Lautaro Martinez had two attempts denied by Noppert and Virgil van Dijk, German Pezzella headed over from a corner, and Enzo Fernandez saw his shot deflect just over the crossbar.
With almost the last kick of the game, Argentina almost nicked a winning goal. Fernandez took a shot from 25 yards out which struck the outside of the post and went wide. But there was not to be another goal, bringing the game to the fourth penalty shoot-out of the tournament.
Van Dijk stepped up first, and his penalty was saved by Martinez. Messi followed, and he calmly rolled his into the back of the net.
Up next was Berghuis, and his was also saved. Leandro Paredes took next, and he perfectly dispatched his effort to give Argentina a commanding lead in the shoot-out.
Koopmeiners was the next to step up, and he was the first to score for his side. But Argentina’s two-goal lead was restored when Gonzalo Montiel converted his penalty.
Weghorst took next, knowing that a miss would send Netherlands out. He kept his nerve under the pressure, sending Martinez the wrong way. And they were given another lifeline when Fernandez put his penalty wide of the left-hand post.
The pressure was on Luuk de Jong to score, and he finished his spot-kick to take the Oranje level in the shoot-out. With the opportunity to win it, Lautaro Martinez emphatically found the top left corner.
For only the second time in the last 30 years, Argentina progressed to the semi-finals. They will face Croatia on Tuesday.
Andries Noppert (5/10) – Made a couple of decent saves during the game. Didn’t save any in the shoot-out.
Denzel Dumfries (5/10) – Carelessly conceded a penalty in the second half. Didn’t offer much going forward.
Jurrien Timber (6/10) – Came under a lot of pressure but coped reasonably well. Conceded a couple of needless fouls.
Virgil van Dijk (5/10) – Perhaps could have done better for the opener. Made a key block in extra time. Missed his penalty in the shoot-out.
Nathan Ake (6/10) – Didn’t let much past him. A decent game.
Daley Blind (5/10) – Allowed Molina to get away from him for the opener. Substituted in the second half.
Marten de Roon (5/10) – Didn’t maintain control in midfield. Substituted at half time.
Frenkie de Jong (7/10) – Grew into the game as it went on. Showed his quality and composure on the ball with some nice touches and driving runs.
Steven Bergwijn (5/10) – Offered very little in attack. Substituted at half time.
Cody Gakpo (5/10) – Kept quiet by Argentina’s backline.
Memphis Depay (4/10) – Completely anonymous. Unable to make an impact against Argentina’s defence.
Teun Koopmeiners (7/10)
Steven Berghuis (5/10)
Luuk de Jong (6/10)
Wout Weghorst (9/10) *MOTM* – Came on, caused problems, scored two goals, scored his penalty in the shoot-out. Can’t complain.
Noa Lang (NA/10)
Emiliano Martinez (8/10) – Didn’t make any saves during the game, but claimed several crosses well when under pressure. Saved two penalties in the shoot-out.
Nahuel Molina (8/10) – Showed loads of threat going forward. Took his goal very well.
Cristian Romero (7/10) – Managed to keep the Dutch frontline quiet while on the pitch. Picked up a needless yellow card in the first half.
Nicolas Otamendi (6/10) – Kept Netherlands at bay for most of the game. Found things much more difficult when Weghorst and De Jong came on.
Lisandro Martinez (6/10) – Did well up against Depay and Gakpo. Struggled with the physical threat of Weghorst and De Jong.
Marcos Acuna (8/10) – Provided plenty of threat down the left and won his side’s penalty.
Enzo Fernandez (6/10) – Showed flashes of quality and was unlucky not to score a late winner. Missed his penalty in the shoot-out.
Rodrigo De Paul (6/10) – Worked hard, but sometimes lost the ball carelessly. Substituted in the second half.
Alexis Mac Allister (7/10) – Energetic and good on the ball. Faded as the game went on.
Lionel Messi (8/10) – Produced the pass of the tournament for Molina’s goal. Took both of his penalties well.
Julian Alvarez (7/10) – Worked hard and linked up well. Caused some problems for the Netherlands defence.
Leandro Paredes (5/10)
German Pezzella (5/10)
Nicolas Tagliofico (6/10)
Lautaro Martinez (6/10)
Gonzalo Montiel (6/10)
Angel Di Maria (6/10)
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