LUSAIL, Qatar – Two extra video games, Lionel Messi. Sounds really easy, proper. Two extra video games, two extra wins, and a big proportion of the soccer-loving international public will not simply be calling you the most effective of this era, however maybe the best of all-time.
Messi and Argentina survived an absolute nail-biter right here on Saturday night, and sure, survived is the appropriate phrase for it.
After Messi was masterful, lighting up Lusail Stadium with a cross of utter perfection to supply the primary purpose and a slotting house a nerve-free penalty for one more, the Netherlands got here storming again to take it to extra-time and a nerve-shredding penalty shootout.
From the spot, Messi was calm, goalkeeper Emi Martinez was excellent with two enormous saves, and Lautaro Martinez fired within the clincher.
On an evening when he would equal Argentina’s worldwide scoring document by matching Gabriel Batistuta on 10, Messi’s first key impression occurred on 35 minutes. It got here from nothing, and it was a factor of magnificence. Messi shimmied as soon as to throw off Nathan Ake and generate some area for himself, only a sliver, however it was sufficient.
His subsequent cross was laser-guided, to the toes of Nahuel Molina, who poked it previous Andries Noppert within the Dutch purpose.
Messi has been by the totally different iterations of this Argentina staff because it seeks a primary World Cup triumph since Diego Maradona’s 1986 masterpiece. He was a teenager, not sufficiently old to considerably function, once they misplaced on penalties in 2006. And on the peak of his powers when dropping to Germany within the 2014 last.
Now he’s nonetheless right here and feeding assists to a brand new era – this was the primary worldwide purpose for Molina, whose future seems to be shiny.
Subsequent up is a semifinal towards Croatia, the 2018 runner-up and penalty shootout artists, which beat Brazil through that methodology earlier within the night. That match will probably be Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports activities app.
Messi was the one selection on 73 minutes, when the referee pointed the spot after Denzel Dumfries fouled Marcos Acuna contained in the field. His kick, speared contained in the put up, left Noppert with no likelihood.
Messi is not at all times within the recreation, however he is by no means removed from the opponent’s ideas. So it proved after 63 minutes when he took the ball in midfield, went on a speedy run earlier than being pushed down by Virgil van Dijk, then curled a whipping free-kick simply over the bar.
The Netherlands had been approach too robust for the United States six days earlier however was unable to get a lot going right here. Star ahead Cody Gakpo was restricted in his area and probabilities and Argentina’s midfield energy served as a protecting blanket.
After which, as Van Gaal went all-in on a protracted ball strategy using his staff’s peak benefit, issues turned. First, Weghorst linked with a Steven Berghuis cross and powered in a header, having earlier changed the ineffective Memphis Depay.
Then, with time only a few ticks from being expired, a ravishing transfer from a free kick simply outdoors the realm leveled the rating. As an alternative of capturing, Berghuis fooled the protection with a low ball to Weghorst, who was too robust and slipped it by Martinez.
There was time for a bit extra spice. Late on, Leandro Paredes booked for a horrible problem on Ake, then booted the ball on the Dutch bench, which then cleared to confront him. Remarkably, Paredes stayed on the sphere.
Messi received a yellow late for time-wasting. He wasn’t the one one, in a feisty encounter there have been 13 complete yellow playing cards.
In the end, the shootout offered but extra drama in a World Cup stuffed with it. Martinez’s save from Virgil van Dijk with the primary kick set the tone and there was no trying again.
Argentina is transferring on. Messi is transferring nearer to the one which has escaped him. Two extra video games, for future.
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