Argentina advance past the Netherlands in a dramatic win

Argentina advance past the Netherlands in a dramatic win

If Lionel Messi wants to win the World Cup, at last, he will have to earn it. Even with a squad as imperfect as Messi’s Argentina, genius can only get you so far; nonetheless, the fairytale can still have a happy conclusion.

If Portugal were to advance from the side of the bracket that also included France, England, and Morocco, it may even occur with Cristiano Ronaldo playing for them on the other side when it does. But let’s put a stop to the illusion for the time being.

Everyone watching might have been excused for getting caught up in the Messi narrative after 80 minutes of the quarterfinal match against the Netherlands at Lusail Stadium, thinking that Qatar 2022 would finish with the 35-year-old obtaining the one major prize he has yet to win.

With his amazing World Cup performance, Messi gave Lionel Scaloni’s squad a 2-0 lead and appeared to be strolling into a semifinal matchup against Croatia on Tuesday. The Paris Saint-Germain striker assisted in setting up Nahuel Molina’s first goal in the first half with a magnificent pass before increasing Argentina’s advantage from the penalty spot in minute 73.

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Wout Weghorst scored twice, first with a header in the 83rd minute, and then by converting one of the nicest and smartest free kicks you’re likely to see 11 minutes into stoppage time to tie the game for the Netherlands. And it wasn’t in the written material. Messi’s narrative shouldn’t have been a nightmare because of a huge center-forward that Burnley brought in to help keep them in the Premier League the previous season. He failed to succeed in this endeavor, scoring only twice in 20 games.

The sporting gods then switched back to Messi and Argentina’s side as the Copa America champions held their nerve to win a penalty shootout, with Messi scoring the first in a 4-3 victory. But just when one of football’s most illustrious careers looked set to be denied its dream ending by a journeyman striker for a poor Dutch team, the sporting gods switched back onto Messi and Argentina’s side.

It was a tense game that finished with 11 Argentina players receiving bookings, two large brawls involving both sets of players, and Argentina’s loud, goading celebrations in front of their defeated rivals. However, this Argentina team is so filled with emotion and desperation, maybe even in Messi, that the terrible events during the triumph may just be justifiable.

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In the end, despite the controversy at the finish, perhaps Argentina’s victory at this World Cup was necessary. After all, dream moments and lifelong memories are what the best football should be about, and Messi gave Molina one of those with his brilliant reverse pass.

Messi’s game-changing contribution prevented the Dutch from suffocating this match with their cautious, conservative style of play. The Netherlands’ coach, Louis van Gaal, has reacted angrily to criticism of his tactical strategy from the Dutch media; one reporter said watching his team that Argentina was struggling quite a lot; however, van Gaal cannot be faulted for trying to make the most of his small squad as the Netherlands are now facing Croatia in the semifinals. Croatia had earlier defeated Brazil on penalties in an equally memorable match.

But picture Messi watching Tuesday’s World Cup semifinal between the Netherlands and Croatia from afar, while Argentina and their amazing fans at home are still hoping to end their 36-year wait for a third World Cup victory. This World Cup does not require that. It needs the Messi factor and his persistent pursuit of the accomplishment that would grant him parity with Diego Maradona in the hearts of the Argentine people.

It needs a South American giant to pursue a first World Cup since Brazil in 2002, and it doesn’t need the Netherlands to play football according to an antiquated manual, as Messi said following the game of “long balls to tall players.” Argentina’s thousands of fans are needed to fill stadiums with their color and noise.

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But regardless of what Argentina does moving forward, Messi’s ball to Molina may serve as the definitive on-field representation of Qatar 2022. Messi’s legs are no longer as swift as his sharp intellect. Sometimes, rather than moving with the burst of speed he formerly possessed at his absolute top, you can see it as he shuffles away from an opponent with a swerve or fake.

However, Messi is aware of his limits and has adjusted his approach to overcoming them. A few years ago, as he approached the goal, he would accelerate and try to score, but this time, he was aware that he needed help to get past the dense Dutch defense. He thus ran across the outside of the penalty area, leaving midfielder Frenkie de Jong in his wake, before finding full-back Molina out of the corner of his eye. He then immediately freed the defender with a reverse ball into the penalty area. As Molina took a shot toward the goal, Virgil van Dijk attempted to foul Argentina but was unable to stop the Liverpool defense.

Together with his colleagues, Messi exulted. Maradona, who nearly single-handedly won the World Cup in 1986, casts a shadow over him that he cannot avoid. But Messi’s ball was reminiscent of one made by his famous predecessor, Diego Maradona, against Brazil in the 1990 tournament. Caniggia scored the game-winning goal after Caniggia received a pass from Maradona that was perfectly placed. Compare the two visionary passes by looking it over.

Author: Bobby Parker