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Argentina defeated the Netherlands in penalties, preserving Lionel Messi’s World Cup dream

Argentina celebrate after scare

Argentina appeared to have been motivated by Messi when he set up Nahuel Molina’s goal 10 minutes before halftime and then scored the second from the penalty spot in the 73rd minute when Denzel Dumfries fouled Marcos Acuna.

In his final game as Dutch coach, Louis van Gaal went all-in, and it paid off when substitute Wout Weghorst led a remarkable comeback by scoring twice, the second after an incredible free-kick routine 11 minutes into stoppage time.

Aston Villa’s Argentina goalie Emi Martinez emerged as the hero, save from Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghuis in a game that saw numerous flashpoints and more than a dozen yellow cards.

Messi scored his penalty and even though pressure mounted on Argentina when Enzo Fernandez dragged his spot-kick wide, Lautaro Martinez made the decisive contribution to spark wild scenes of celebration.

The delight in the Lusail Stadium fans and among Argentina’s players was enhanced by the knowledge of how close they came to throwing away a position of comfort in this furious World Cup quarter-final.

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Argentina was cruising with a two-goal advantage in the last 10 minutes, but even the swarms of blue and white clad spectators were stunned when their team dropped those two late goals, obviously seized by desperation as the Netherlands used the huge combo of Weghorst and Luuk de Jong.

Emi Martinez came to the rescue in the penalty shootout, despite Argentina doing all the runs and the Dutch clinging on in the extra session, with Enzo Martinez hitting the post with almost the final kick of the game.

Argentina held their nerve to win the shootout and will now meet Croatia in the semi-finals after they also won on penalties against Brazil, a result which added another layer to the celebrations as they not only saw a historic rival go out, but also one of the main threats to their hopes of winning the World Cup.

This was a close-run thing for Argentina but they now stand only one game away from reaching the World Cup final, having falling victim to one of the biggest shocks of the tournament when they lost their opening game to Saudi Arabia.

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