Could The World Cup Fairytale Be Coming True For Lionel Messi And Argentina?

Argentina defeated the Netherlands 4-3 on penalties to reach the semi-finals
22:02, 09 Dec 2022

Leonardo Da Vinci had a paint brush. Jimi Hendrix had a guitar. Lionel Messi has a football. Three icons of their different fields but equally pioneers through their artistry. 

Messi looks to be continuing his greatest masterpiece as he scored, assisted and converted Argentina’s first spot-kick after they beat the Netherlands 4-3 on penalties after they drew 2-2 in 120 minutes.

The stalwart may have been the star of the show on the pitch, but the hero of the shoot-out was goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez. He saved the first two penalties he faced from Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghuis. Martinez was their hero in the Copa America penalty shoot-out against Colombia last year and he was the hero once again on an even bigger stage.

As for Messi, the Argentine superstar keeps on treating us at this World Cup. He may be 35 years of age but he has been showing us in Qatar that the show is nowhere near over. Messihas been mesmerising in this tournament, which to many was labelled as his swansong. He may be a veteran now but he has been dazzling us with things we saw him do in his more youthful days and he has been inspiring his teammates in this tournament.


Whether it be through his silky skills, his incredible passing, driving runs or goals, he has given something for his team and fans to believe in and that is why he is the captain. Against the Netherlands, the no-look pass he made for Nahuel Molina’s goal in the first half was like a piece of art. Messi had no right to execute that pass to perfection but yet he did because of who he is. It may be his fifth World Cup but that man still finds ways to leave us speechless. In providing that majestic assist for the full-back, Messi has registered seven assists at the World Cup and since 1966, only the late Diego Maradona, his former manager, has more (eight).

The left-footed wizard then stepped up to convert a penalty at a crucial point in the match in the second half to double his side’s lead to almost guarantee his side’s place in the semi-finals. His spot-kick saw him reach 10 goals at the World Cup, joining Gabriel Batistuta as Argentina’s record goalscorer in the prestigious competition. The legacy of his storied career keeps on expanding and it comes as no surprise.

It is transparently clear that anything positive surrounding Argentina goes through their skipper and while he is their leading man, he has been getting support from his peers. Alexis Mac Allister was particularly impressive against the Netherlands for his composure on the ball and being able to hold off the physical Depay in the process.

For La Albiceleste, it feels as though that opening game defeat to Saudi Arabia is well and truly behind Argentina now. While there was slow progress in their performances in the group stage, it was progress nonetheless - and they’ve been able to score some excellent goals in the process. Their methods got them through to the knockout stage and it saw them get past Australia, who had proven to be a tough nut to crack in Qatar. And now they have gotten past the Netherlands, who have had a similar pathway to La Albiceleste through the tournament.

Let’s also not forget that before the Saudi Arabia defeat, Argentina were on a gargantuan 36-game unbeaten run that began back in 2019. Not to mention they grabbed their first Copa America title in 28 years during that streak. That first piece of international glory for Messi and co seems to be having such a strong mental effect on the players. Even though they don’t boast the strongest squad in Qatar, they’re equipped with the experience of winning silverware, and apart from Messi, that could be their greatest weapon.

Lionel Scaloni made a formation change to face the Dutch, changing from a 4-3-3, which he has deployed throughout the World Cup, to a 5-3-2. It appeared that this decision was made for his side to nullify the threat posed by Louis van Gaal’s attacking trident of Memphis Depay, Cody Gakpo and Steven Bergwijn. 

They did really well to deal with those particular threats and it took towering forward Wout Weghorst to enter the fray to give the Dutch a spark up front. The Besiktas attacker came on in the second half and soon had his side back in the tie with a glancing header into the far corner. The Dutch continuously pushed for an equaliser but they found it difficult to create the same openings. 

It took a free-kick in the dying seconds for the Netherlands to grab an equaliser and take the game to extra time. A brave but perfectly executed free kick from Berghuis saw the winger roll the ball into Weghorst who was able to turn and roll the ball into the bottom corner.

Argentina had the better of the chances in extra time but they got the job done on penalties. Messi keeps on writing his own script when it comes to his footballing legend and now he is just two matches away from securing his life-long dream.

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