In another insane penalty thriller, Argentina, led by assist and goalscorer Lionel Messi, trembled into the World Cup semi-finals. The South Americans beat the Netherlands 4-3 on penalties in the top eight on Friday night thanks to goalkeeper match-winner Emiliano Martinez. After 120 crazy minutes, it was 2-2 (2-2, 1-0) in a highly charged and heated match with pack formation and well over ten yellow cards. The former Wolfsburg striker Wout Weghorst had made the two-time world champion tremble with a brace.
Messi watched in front of 88,235 spectators
A few hours after the penalty knockout. from Brazil with Messi's PSG club colleague and friend Neymar, coach Lionel Scaloni's team underlined their ambitions for the World Cup title against the Dutch, who had been unbeaten in 19 games under van Gaal. On Tuesday (8:00 p.m.) it's up against Brazil-conqueror Croatia for a place in the final.
Only 15 kilometers away from the World Cup defeat of Neymar's great arch-rival, the Argentines around Messi wanted to do better, even if the dream of football fans worldwide of the Superclásico in the semi-finals in Qatar was already gone. Eyes closed for a moment, Messi fervently sang the anthem, which was joined by tens of thousands in Argentinian jerseys in the stands.
Of course, the experienced coach did not reveal how van Gaal wanted to stop Messi. In any case, the Dutch and their captain Virgil van Dijk from Liverpool did not deviate from their style of play, which was designed more for effectiveness than attractiveness and left the action to the South Americans. The important wingman Ángel di María was missing from the starting lineup, just like in the round of 16 against the Australians.
But even if the Dutch, like everyone else, preached beforehand that they would not play against Messi but against Argentina, he taught them better with the provisional climax after a good half hour. First he puts on Rodrigo de Paul. The midfield clearer and booster was able to play after worrying reports about his fitness. But his shot was too weak.
Immediately afterwards, Messi's brilliant assist left a perplexed van Gaal on the Dutch bench. With a brief body trick he duped Nathan Aké about 30 meters in front of the goal, ran on with the ball at his foot, looked ahead, but without looking, played steeply and precisely to Molina, who didn't give Andries Noppert a chance when he fell with his outside instep. Messi raised his fist and laughed at the audience - Messi experienced the World Cup in the best form of the glorious Barça era.
Whatever van Gaal came up with - it didn't work at all for a long time. Only a little later Messi danced out Aké again, the shot with the weaker right foot did not cause any problems for Noppert.
The Argentines had not once been able to beat the Dutch in regular time in the four previous World Cup duels. They won the final at home in 1978 after extra time, and the South Americans sat down in the quarter-finals at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil Penalty shootout through.
The Dutch were now challenged. Van Gaal made the switch, brought in two fresh players - but now played even more defensively on paper. The South Americans initially fell back a little more, but the van Gaal protégés weren't really able to use that at first. And every time Messi got the ball in his 24th World Cup game, in which he drew level with Miroslav Klose and is only one behind record holder Lothar Matthäus, it got dangerous and loud in the stadium anyway.
A free kick after a good hour after a foul on himself swept over the goal net. He aimed more precisely at the penalty kick. It was his tenth World Cup goal, drawing level with Argentina's World Cup record scorer Gabriel Batistuta. Weghorst's goal then burst into the constant song of the Argentine fans.
There were anxious and heated minutes. Pack formation, a red-worthy body check by van Dijk, and then ten minutes of stoppage time. The goal to make it 2-2 came in the eleventh minute of added time after an unnecessary foul by the Argentines. Instead of shooting over the wall, substitute Teun Koopmeiners passed Weghorst and he scored again. This time to equalize: extra time and even the ultimate highlight with the penalty shootout.