Lusail [Qatar], December 10 (ANI): Argentina marched into the semifinals of the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Qatar, defeating the Netherlands 4-3 via penalties after playing a thrilling 2-2 stalemate that got extended to extra time here at Lusail Stadium on Saturday.
In the opening 10 minutes of the match, the Dutch enjoyed the bulk of ball possession. In the eighth minute, there was one nervous moment for the Men in Orange as Dutch keeper Andries Noppert's pass to a defender turned to be too close to Argentina's Julian Alvarez inside the box, but nothing happened.
There was only one attempt from both sides and it came from two-time champions Argentina, but it was not on target.
After the ten-minute mark, Dutch started to dominate the possession more. There was a lot of game in the midfield.
In the 18th minute, Jurrien Timber gave a great long pass to Steven Bergwijn, who was inside the Argentinian box, but keeper Emiliano Martinez managed to collect the ball from the edge of the box.
In the 21st minute, Netherlands earned a corner but the Argentinian box was cleared out easily.
Star striker Messi went for a long-range goal, wriggling away from Marten de Roon, but the shot went well wide of the goal.
In the 24th minute, the Netherlands lost a chance at scoring as well. The ball came to Memphis Depay on his left foot, but his finish was way too wide.
Nathan Ake sent an aerial pass to Cody Gakpo at the edge of Argentina's box, but the young striker tripped Cristian Romero down, giving a free kick to Argentina.
In the first 30 minutes, the Dutch enjoyed around 60 per cent of ball possession and there were no shots on target.
The 35th minute of the match saw Lionel Messi delivering an incredible assist. After being able to spot Nahuel Molina, the legendary striker made great use of the wide space available to pass the ball to Molina, who latched to it and netted it past the goalkeeper Noppert to make it 1-0.
In the 40th minute, Alvarez fed Messi inside the Dutch box, Messi tried to pierce a shot on goal, but Noppert saved it with ease. It was the Dutch player Timber who got booked.
Five minutes of stoppage time was added.
Later it was Argentinian Romero who was booked and in the 47th minute, Wout Weghorst was also booked. It was raining yellow cards.
At the end of half-time, the scoreline read 1-0 in favour of Argentina, who enjoyed only 42 per cent of ball possession as compared to 58 per cent by the Dutch. Both teams were given two yellow cards each. Argentina had hit three shots on target while the Netherlands managed none.
The early minutes of the second half saw the Netherlands still getting to enjoy a huge amount of time with the ball, but they could not put it to the net. They had also made substitutes, as Teun Koopmeiners and Steven Berghuis were on for Marten de Roon and Steven Bergwijn.
In the 59th minute, Messi came deep and gave a pass to Mac Allister. The Netherlands had left themselves exposed fully, but De Paul, who received a pass, could not convert the chance into a goal.
The 61st minute of the match saw Argentina winning a free kick after a foul was committed on Messi by Virgil van Dijk. The star striker took the free-kick but it went over the crossbar.
Argentina won a penalty in the 71st minute after Dumfries fouled Marcos Acuna in Netherlands' box. Messi took the penalty in the 73rd minute and scored a goal to bring up his 10th World Cup goal, drawing level with former Argentina star Gabriel Batistuta to become the joint-highest scorer for Argentina in the marquee football event.
Messi also continued his stupendous run in the tournament, scoring four and assisting two of his side's nine goals in the tournament so far.
The Netherlands brought themselves in the game in the 83rd minute, with Wout Weghorst scoring a goal after a tremendous header, well away from goalkeeper Martinez's reach. The scoreline read 2-1 in favour of Argentina but they were headed towards some final nervy moments in the match as the possibility of an equalizer loomed large over them.
10 minutes of stoppage time was added at the end of 90 minutes. In the first minute itself, there was a moment of panic for Argentina as the Dutch was awarded a free kick due to a foul at the edge of their box. Bergwijn took it, slamming it into a firm wall of Argentinians.
The Dutch were looking for an equaliser and made a lot of moves into the Argentinian box but to no avail.
In the 100th minute of the match, the Netherlands got a free kick, right on the edge of the box. Weghorst sent the game into extra time with a goal from the free kick. The scoreline was even at 2-2.
The first half of the extra time did not yield any goal, but was filled with some highly intense action from both the sides, desperate to take the lead.
The second half turned out to be a stalemate too and the second semifinalist was now to be decided via penalties.
Van Dijk was first up for the Dutch and his shot was saved by the keeper. Messi came to take the first penalty for Argentina and scored a goal to give a 1-0 lead.
Martinez denied the Dutch a goal in their second penalty as well, remarkably saving a shot by Steven Berghuis. Argentina went up 2-0 after Leandro Paredes launched one right into the net.
Teun Koopmeiners converted Dutch's third penalty into a goal to keep things alive for the Dutch. But Gonzalo Montiel scored the third straight goal for Argentina to make it 3-1 and give a huge advantage to Messi-led side.
Weghorst nailed yet another goal, this time in penalties to keep Netherlands alive at 2-3. Enzo Fernandez missed his penalty for Argentina to keep the scoreline at 2-3.
Both sides had one penalty to go. De Jong scored one for Dutch to keep the scores even, but a strike by Lautaro Martinez sent Argentina into the semifinals, with the scoreline reading 4-3 in their favour. (ANI)