Messi: Maradona is watching us and pushing us from heaven

Messi: Maradona is watching us and pushing us from heaven

Lionel Messi starred yet again for Argentina as it beat the Netherlands 4-3 on penalties at the Lusail Stadium on Friday to advance to the semifinal of the FIFA World Cup 2022.

“It was a very hard match from the very beginning. We knew it as the Netherlands was a big national team. We suffered despite having the lead and had to change as the Dutch troubled us with tall players and long balls,” Messi said after the match.

The Argentina forward set up his team’s opening goal scored by Nahuel Molina in the 35th minute. He then doubled the South American side’s advantage after converting a spot kick in the 73rd minute.

Netherlands, however, restored parity with Wout Weghorst coming off the bench and scoring in the 83rd minute and injury time.

Weghorst’s second goal came off a freekick awarded for an Leandro Parades foul near the Argentina penalty area. Messi, however, did not agree with the referee’s decision.

“There were a lot of grievance when they equalised as I think it was not a foul. Referee was not up to the standard but I did not want to talk. When Lautaro (Martinez) scored we again had joy,” he said.

Messi and Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez were among the players who criticised Antonio Mateu Lahoz for his officiating in the game. The Spanish referee made 19 bookings during the game, which included a sending off for Dutch defender Denzel Dumfries.

With the game moving to penalties, both Messi and Martinez got Argentina off to a solid start in the shootout. Martinez saved Virgil Van Dijk’s opening penalty before Messi converted his to give Argentina the lead.

Martinez went on to save Steven Berghuis’ second penalty as well. Enzo Fernandez missed his attempt but Argentina was able to make its way into the last four as Lautaro Martinez converted the fifth and final chance.

Messi celebrating with Martinez after Argentina’s penalty shootout win.

Messi celebrating with Martinez after Argentina’s penalty shootout win.
| Photo Credit: Getty Images

In the first few moments after the win, Messi dashed all the way from the centre-line to celebrate with Martinez, who stood at the far end of the pitch, near the corner flag.

Cherishing the win at the Lusail Stadium which was packed with the Argentina faithful, Messi said, “We lived the moment with our people and we are happy to make them happy. It was an impressive match and there’s a little less weight (now). Diego (Maradona) is watching us and pushing us from heaven and we hope it stays this way till the end.”

Argentina returns to the semifinal of a World Cup after 2014 and will face the runner up from 2018, Croatia, on December 13.

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