Argentina and the Netherlands started their World Cup quarter-final at Lusail Stadium in Doha on December 9. By the time the brawl was over and the players left the field, it was December 10.
In the intervening moments of this World Cup classic, there were 13 yellow cards, a century-old Messi assist, a creative Dutch free-kick in the 100th minute to force extra time, which was not enough to win the two royalties of international American football.
Finally, after the scores were level at 2–2 after extra time, Argentina triumphed 4–3 in the penalty shootout. And Messi’s dream of winning the World Cup lived on. Goalkeeper Emi Martinez made sure of that with spectacular saves in an exciting tiebreak.
In regular time, it was Messi who carried the team on his shoulders.
Argentina’s tactics in most of their games seem to be passing the ball to Messi and praying he can work his magic. Throughout his career, the 35-year-old has done that and more.
All emotions… pic.twitter.com/55zBVmMf9h
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) December 9, 2022
On Friday he gave another show.
The magical moment came in the 35th minute. The Argentinian number 10 received a pass from Nahuel Molina, who was used as a winger on the right flank after coach Lionel Scaloni’s narrowed formation. Molina continued his run-up to the Dutch goal, but Messi seemed to have few opportunities to pass.
About 35 yards from goal, Messi was surrounded by four players – one up front, constantly shadowing him; one on the left and right sides to close its corners; and the fourth approaches from behind. In front of him, Molina had encountered a small sack on the edge of the penalty area, but he too was surrounded by two defenders.
Despite there being no room to work with, Messi turned the corner of his eye up to see Molina and delicately sliced the ball between two of the best defenders, Virgil van Dijk and Danny Blind, to put Molina on target. Molina did well to control the ball and send it past the goalkeeper to score his first goal for Argentina.
“A goal of lush geometry. Messi seems to find an angle that doesn’t exist to create that pass,” shouted commentator Peter Drury, one of many who couldn’t hide their surprise, praising it as the “pass of the tournament”.
“How does Messi do this shit? Astoundingly brilliant,” former England international turned pundit Gary Lineker said on Twitter.
It was an unreal vision and implementation, especially because the Netherlands did nothing wrong there. The defense was compact, there were players who closed Messi. Still, they couldn’t stop him.
In the second half, Messi got his name on the scoresheet when he confidently converted a penalty – having already missed the World Cup once – to put Aegentina ahead 2-0.
The score seemed to vindicate coach Lionel Scaloni’s strategy after he changed his favored 4-3-3 formation and started with a 3-5-2 to match the Dutch system. In addition, the plan was to make sure the Dutch wouldn’t choke them in the middle of the field, to make sure Messi doesn’t have to sink too far to receive the ball and to unleash some fascinating 1v1 duels between the wingers. , given the natural width offered for both teams.
Wout Weghorst’s brace – including the equalizer in the 100th minute from a brutal free kick – did scare them.
But at the end of an epic evening, it was Messi who left the stadium smiling. He dictated the game, pirouetted past defenders, came close to scoring from a free kick, was successful from the spot – twice – and even got a yellow card for a foul, but it will be that pass that will last for years to come will be remembered.