Argentina defeated Holland 4-3 on penalties in the second quarterfinal of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup to set up a semifinal meeting with Croatia. Dutch captain, Virgil van Dijk, and Steven Berghuis had their penalties saved while four out of five Argentines shot perfect penalties. Denzel Dumfries managed to get a second-yellow-card red card during the shootout.
Unfortunately for Holland, they started playing well and seemed at times the better side but suffered a classic Lionel Messi moment against the run of play which put them on their back heels for the rest of the match. That opener, a moment of Messi magic at the 35th minute, in perhaps the best assist of the cup, saw Nahuel Molina the recipient of a no-look, twenty-five-yard through ball in between several players by the diminutive maestro which carved the Dutch defense wide-open and found the Argentine right back receiving close inside the Oranje box without having to break stride and slotting away the easy score.
The match was a typical Argentina World Cup knockout match with 48 fouls between the teams, 14 yellows, and a red card. There was at least one emptying of the benches when Leandro Paredes committed an ugly legs-up tripping foul on Nathan Ake and then purposely blasted the ball from a yard in bounds into the Dutch bench. Van Dijk came running over and knocked Paredes on his fanny and the benches cleared. Spanish ref, Antonio Mateu Lahoz, was uncharacteristically off his game and allowed many a questionable play go including what were certainly double yellows for Messi, Nicolas Otamendi, and Marcos Acuna.
On the playing side of the stats, Argentina had 14 shots with five on goal to the Dutch’s six and two. The game was an even affair (52% to 48% possession in favor of Holland), but a Dumphries mistake led to a penalty Lionel Messi converted in the 73rd minute to put the Albicelestes two goals up.
The Dutch would come back in style thanks to a timely substitution by Louis van Gaal who pulled his last rabbit out of his willy hat sending in six-foot-six substitute Wout Weghorst. He scored in the 83rd minute off a header and then again at the 90+11 (yes the Argentines kept wasting time and the ref kept telling them he would keep on adding time to the stoppage clock) off a fantastic free kick that bamboozled the Argentines and saw Weghorst score from a short pass and a close-in shot when a cross was expected. Lionel Scaloni seemed unable to come up with anything to counter the Dutch during their furious 20-minute comeback and extra time ensued.
The good news for semifinals underdog Croatia, who will have had to beat both South American giants just to make it to the finals, is that Argentina’s starters will also have had to play extra time and shoot penalties before they meet up.
So far, Argentina has had all of the pieces fall into place for them as they managed to overcome a shocking loss to Saudi Arabia and then got what seemed a cherry-on-top score against Australia that ended up being the match’s winning goal, defeated a little-motivated Poland who only needed to lose by fewer goals than Mexico could score to progress and beat Mexico on a single moment of Messi magic albeit off a defensive blunder by the Tri. Now comes Messi’s second moment and their fortunate penalty shootout win, since the Dutch had the momentum going in and still managed to miss two of their five penalties.
In short, for Argentina, some good fortune and timely Messi interventions have kept them going. Lio now has four goals placing him second behind Kylian Mbappe’s five. For the Dutch, van Gaal’s wiles fell short as he was unable to come up with a plan that worked on what was probably their best-played game against one of the more brittle contenders still standing.
Photo: Lionel Messi, Shutterstock ID: 1437545375, by A PAES.