Argentina beat the Netherlands 4-3 on penalties in a dramatic, testy match at Lusail’s Iconic Stadium to set up a semi-final against Croatia, after their World Cup quarter-final finished 2-2 after extra-time.
A total of 17 yellow cards were handed out in the match on Friday which looked to be going Argentina’s way until the Netherlands equalised in the tenth minute of stoppage time.
A half hour of extra time saw no breakthroughs.
The Dutch failed to score their first two penalties in the shootout, while Argentina were flawless until they missed their fourth. Lautaro Martinez scored their final spot kick and kept Argentina’s World Cup dreams alive.
It took a long time to get going, this match. But Lionel Messi – who else? – put together a moment of magic to thread an inch-perfect pass to Nahuel Molina, who wasted no time in burying the ball in the back of the net in the 35th minute.
The near-stagnant game trundled on until a foul on the very edge of the Dutch penalty area in the 72nd minute had the referee pointing to the spot, and Argentina’s record-breaking Number 10 stood forward once more. The Netherlands’ keeper Andries Noppert could only watch as Messi’s shot rocketed past him to double their lead.
In the 83rd minute, five minutes after coming on to the field, Wout Weghorst found the net with the Netherlands’ first shot on goal. Two minutes later, Memphis Depay rocketed the ball into the side netting, and the game briefly came alive.
A change in formation allowed Argentina a lot more flexibility in their strategy, shifting to a back three – meaning Lisandro Martinez and Cristian Romero could push out and follow the Dutch into more advanced areas, with Nicolas Otamendi as the spare man providing cover at the back.
It was a workmanlike approach which worked. The Netherlands didn’t make it easy for Messi’s men, switching to a back four in the second half, but Argentina slowly ground them down throughout the 90 minutes. It wasn’t pretty or full of flair; it was hard work which paid off.
A testy match saw the referee lose control towards the end of normal time, with Leandro Paredes losing his cool and booting the ball into the Dutch dugout – whose substitutes stormed the pitch in a brief melee.
It was enough to add ten minutes to the clock, and that was just enough. A free kick for the Netherlands in the 101st minute, seemingly the last, desperate kick of the match, turned out to be a surprise training ground exercise from the Dutch masters as Teun Koopmeiners rolled the ball to the foot of the wall, where Wout Weghorst was waiting once more to turn and sweep a shot into the goal to bring the score to 2-2.
Extra time saw tensions rising and tempers flaring, but no goals, despite a brief period in which the Netherlands were on top and threatening to score. It lasted only a few minutes before Argentina’s dominant attack again took the game to the Dutch goalmouth.
The result eliminates the Netherlands from the competition and brings an end to 71-year-old Louis van Gaal’s tenure as coach of the Dutch national team.
Argentina will play Croatia – who sensationally knocked out five-times world champions Brazil, also on penalties – in the World Cup semi-final at Lusail Iconic Stadium on Tuesday.