Lautaro Martinez fired Argentina into the semi-finals of 2022 FIFA World Cup via 4-3 win on penalties after a fiery 2-2 draw following extra-time.
Molina fired Argentina in front from Messi’s 35th minute pass in a cagey first half in which both teams failed to produce much quality.
Messi added Argentina’s second goal from a 73rd minute penalty after Marcos Acuna was fouled two minutes earlier by Denzel Dumfries.
Netherlands clawed a goal back in the 83rd minute via Wout Weghorst’s header although the forward smashed in his second goal deep into injury-time, which unexpectedly forced extra time then ultimately penalties.
Misses from Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghius proved costly for the Dutch as Argentina prevailed 4-3 on penalties, as Martinez converted the final penalty despite Enzo Fernandez missing his spot-kick for the two-time champions.
Argentina will now face Croatia in the opening semi-final at Lusail Iconic Stadium on Tuesday 13 December, with kick-off at 10pm AST local time (7pm GMT UK Time).
Despite making one tactical change as Lisandro Martinez came into the starting line-up in place of Alejandro Gomez, Argentina started on the front foot but lacked any cutting-edge end product in the opening 15 minutes.
Netherlands weren’t much better but Denzel Dumfries found himself on the receiving end of the first proper chance, as he met a deep cross from the left and headed back across the box but Argentina’s defence intercepted and cleared up the pitch.
Messi who struggled to produce much quality went close in the 22nd minute as he fired over from 25 yards in Argentina’s first proper opportunity, before he teed up Rodrigo de Paul via Alexis Mac Allister 11 minutes later but Andries Noppert made a crucial save.
Netherlands’ defence though failed to heed those warnings as just two minutes later, Messi broke forward and teed up Molina with a direct pass to rifle in from close-range beyond Noppert’s reach.
Neither team were able to make further improvement before half-time as Argentina clung onto their slender lead, which led Netherlands manager – Louis van Gaal to drop Marten de Roon and Steven Bergwijn at half-time for Teun Koopmeiners and Berghuis respectively.
Those changes failed to quickly produce an impact as Argentina continued to play on the front-foot as Acuna saw his 47th minute cross blocked, although he will miss the semi-final after he was booked in the first-half.
Messi meanwhile drew a foul from Virgil van Dijk just over the hour mark just outside of the box, yet he was only able to curl his free-kick over the bar.
Argentina however were eventually able to extend their lead as Acuna drew a 71st minute foul from Dumfries just marginally inside the box, which led referee – Antonio Mateu Lahoz to award a penalty which Messi dispatched two minutes later.
A protestor soon afterwards encroached onto the pitch but was swiftly removed by security, amidst arguments between Dutch and Argentinean players at the opposite end.
Netherlands though refused to settle for a comfortable defeat and managed to claw a goal back with seven minutes of normal time left as two substitutes combined, with Berguis’ right-flank cross headed in by Wout Weghorst.
Tempers however boiled over again one minute later as Leandro Paredes lunged in recklessly upon Nathan Ake, which triggered a mass brawl amongst both teams, yet the Argentinean escaped with just a yellow card from Mateu Lahoz.
Argentina quickly dug deep upon the dust settling on the arguments to keep Netherlands at bay until substitute, German Pezzella shoved Weghorst to ground just outside his own penalty area.
The Dutch consequently made Pezzella pay for his blunder as Berghuis bent the free-kick low under the wall, which Weghorst latched onto and calmly rifled in from close-range to equalise and force extra time amidst a further brawl between both teams upon the full-time whistle.
Once extra time commenced, Argentina enjoyed the first opportunity as Lautaro Martinez struck a half-volley but the ball flew into Noppert’s arms.
Both teams thereafter scrapped hard whilst Argentinean substitute, Gonzalo Montiel was booked in the 109th minute, which meant that he too will miss the semi-final.
Argentina eventually dominated the last ten minutes of extra time as Martinez, Enzo Fernandez, Pezzella and Messi all saw shots go wide, albeit via deflections for Martinez and Fernandez’s attempts upon goal.
Netherlands eventually clung on to force a penalty shootout in the second consecutive World Cup meeting between these two teams, after their last clash in this competition back in semi-finals of 2014 tournament also went to penalties.
Van Dijk and Berghius both missed their opening spot-kicks for Netherlands whilst Messi and Paredes converted their penalties to put Argentina 2-0 up after the opening four spot-kicks, but Koopmeiners briefly reduced the Argentineans’ lead to 2-1 with the Dutch’s third kick.
Montiel however restored Argentina’s two-goal lead in the shootout only for Weghorst to pull one back for the Dutch, who were given further hope after Fernandez missed the left corner in Argentina’s fourth penalty kick and Luuk De Jong duly equalised with the penultimate kick.
Martinez eventually converted the final penalty into the left corner to seal a 4-3 victory for Argentina on penalties, who now will meet Croatia in the opening semi-final after the Croatians stunned Brazil on penalties in the opening Quarter-Final.
Tensions however didn’t immediately settle as further arguments broke out with further yellow cards dished out, which meant that 15 yellow cards in total were served during the match.
Netherlands: Andries Noppert, Jurrien Timber, Virgil van Dijk, Nathan Ake, Denzel Dumfries, Marten de Roon (Koopmeiners 45′), Frenkie de Jong, Daley Blind (Luuk De Jong 64′), Cody Gakpo (Lang 113′), Memphis Depay (Weghorst 78′), Steven Bergwijn (Berghuis 45′)
Substitutes: Remko Pasveer, Matthijs de Ligt, Stefan de Vrij, Luuk de Jong, Steven Berghuis, Noa Lang, Justin Bijlow, Davy Klaassen, Tyrell Malacia, Vincent Janssen, Wout Weghorst, Teun Koopmeiners, Kenneth Taylor, Xavi Simons, Jeremie Frimpong
Argentina: Emiliano Martinez, Nahuel Molina (Montiel 105′), Cristian Romero (Pezzella 78′), Nicolas Otamendi, Lisandro Martinez (Di Maria 112′), Marcos Acuna (Tagliafico 78′), Rodrigo De Paul (Paredes 66′), Enzo Fernandez, Alexis Mac Allister, Julian Alvarez (Lautaro Martinez 82′), Lionel Messi
Substitutes: Franco Armani, Juan Foyth, Nicolas Tagliafico, Gonzalo Montiel, Leandro Paredes, German Pezzella, Angel Di Maria, Geronimo Rulli, Exequiel Palacios, Angel Correa, Thiago Almada, Alejandro Gomez, Guido Rodriguez, Paulo Dybala, Lautaro Martinez
Referee: Antonio Mateu Lahoz (Spain)