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FIFAWC 2022: Martinez comes up big as Argentina survive scare to reach last four

La Albiceleste to face Croatia for a place in the final

Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was the hero of the shootout as his side overcame Netherlands 4-3 on penalties to reach the semifinals of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The Aston Villa man saved twice from the spot to help his side win the shootout.

Argentina and Netherlands faced off in the last eight after they had defeated Australia and USA, respectively, in the Round of 16. Both sides last met in the competition in the semifinal of the 2014 edition in Brazil.

The teams were evenly matched from the start as they tested each other out. A moment of pure magic, however, gave the Copa America champions the lead in the first half.

Lionel Messi played a beauty of a pass to slice open the Netherlands defence, sending Nahuel Molina through on goal. The Atletico Madrid right-back finished smartly past the onrushing goalkeeper to give his country the lead in the 35th minute with his first senior international goal.

Argentina continued to keep their Dutch opponents at bay, and doubled their lead in the second half. An impressive mazy run from left-back Marcos Acuna saw Denzel Dumfries trip him in the box, and Spanish referee Mateu Lahoz immediately pointed to the spot. Messi stepped up to take the penalty and buried it past the stranded goalkeeper in the 73rd minute.

With the game slipping away, Netherlands manager Louis Van Gaal threw on giant strikers Luuk De Jong and Wout Weghorst. The changes paid dividends as they began to inch closer to a goal.

Netherlands pulled one back in the 83rd minute as Weghorst glanced a brilliant header past Martinez following an inviting cross from Steven Berghuis.

Following their goal, the Netherlands launched a barrage of attacks on Argentina’s goal and were rewarded in the 11th minute of time added on at the end of the 90 minutes. A smartly-taken free-kick saw Teun Koopmeiners slide a pass through to Weghorst, who took a touch to get the ball out of his feet before firing his effort into the back of the net to send the game to extra time.

Argentina dominated the extra 30 minutes, with Messi, Lautaro Martinez and Enzo Fernandez taking turns to work Dutch goalkeeper Andries Noppert, with Fernandez even striking an effort against the frame of the goal. They failed to find the net, and the match went to penalties.

Netherlands captain Virgil Van Dijk saw his effort saved by Martinez, who also saved the second effort from Berghuis. Argentina scored their first three attempts before Fernandez struck the upright again. Lautaro Martinez stepped up and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to give his side the win.

Argentina have now reached the semifinals for the first time since 2014. They will face Croatia at the Lusail Stadium on Tuesday for a place in the final on December 18th.

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