Argentina reaches Qatar 2022 semifinals with penalty shootout win over Netherlands in World Cup thriller
(CNN) -- The hopes of Argentina and Lionel Messi winning the World Cup remain very much alive after a nerve-shredding penalty shootout victory over the Netherlands in a thrilling match at Qatar 2022.
Leading 2-0 with just eight minutes remaining thanks to goals from Nahuel Molina and Messi, the Netherlands staged a stunning comeback as a Wout Weghorst's brace ensured the game went to extra time.
With neither side able to find the winner in those extra 30 minutes, the match was decided on penalties and Argentina goalkeeper Emi Martinez made himself the hero for La Albiceleste, saving two Dutch spot kicks.
Martinez has made a name for himself as an expert in penalty shootouts, saving three in Argentina's Copa America semifinal against Colombia last year, and further cemented his place as an Argentine hero in Qatar.
After Enzo Fernandez missed the first penalty that would have given Argentina victory, Lautaro Martinez stepped up and hammered home the winning spot kick to send the thousands of Argentine fans inside the Lusail Stadium into delirium.
Argentina's players remained out on the pitch long after the shootout was over, taking in the adulation of their adoring fans who will no doubt be celebrating long into the night in Qatar.
It was another remarkable ending to a match at this World Cup, which has seen all manner of shocks and comebacks, though this one perhaps exceeded them all.
Spanish referee Mateu Lahoz, known for his eccentricity and enjoyment of the limelight, certainly added to the drama, dishing out an numerous yellow cards, including one in the shootout, as he struggled to keep control of the game.
There were no less than three mass brawls throughout the 120 minutes and penalties, the first one sparked by Leandro Paredes smashing a ball straight into the Netherlands dugout at the side of the pitch.
This match will undoubtedly go down as an all-time World Cup classic, but Argentina will quickly need to bring itself down back to earth ahead of the semifinal against knockout specialist Croatia.
Millions of Argentines have dreamed of the day Messi emulates the late Diego Maradona and lifts the World Cup. That day is now one step closer.
More to follow...
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