Netherlands vs. Argentina  2-2 (3-4 on penalties): Player ratings and Messi’s World Cup journey continues

Netherlands vs. Argentina  2-2 (3-4 on penalties): Player ratings and Messi's World Cup journey continues

Netherlands vs. Argentina: Argentina defeated the Netherlands to advance to the World Cup semifinals and keep Lionel Messi’s title chances alive, but only after squandering a 2-0 lead and prevailing in a penalty shootout.

Messi kicked off the penalty shootout, while Martinez stopped the first two Dutch attempts. Enzo Fernandez missed the opportunity to win with his shot, but Lautaro Martinez capitalized on the second chance to advance La Albiceleste.

Messi and Nahuel Molina had given Argentina the advantage in regulation, but the Netherlands staged a dramatic late comeback led by substitute Wout Weghorst.

Despite being two of the most popular and accomplished teams in this competition, neither team produced any noteworthy opportunities in the first twenty minutes. Messi and Steven Bergwijn’s wide-ranging misses were the only noteworthy attempts after thirty minutes.

When the first shot on goal was taken, it was a team effort by Rodrigo de Paul that Dutch goalkeeper Andries Noppert, a cult hero, easily saved. Nevertheless, it seemed to signal a turnaround in the game since Molina’s first home run followed practically immediately.

The goal was scored by Messi, who picked up the ball in midfield, altered his speed abruptly, and then delivered a pass to Molina that defied logic as to how he saw the wing run. Back’s The Atletico Madrid player poked the ball over the advancing Noppert.

Referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz issued yellow cards to players, including Weghorst, on the bench as tempers boiled and the rest of the first half threatened to devolve into a scuffle.

Frenkie de Jong needed to be farther up the field to have the desired effect, so Louis van Gaal made two substitutions at halftime to spark his team’s performance.

In a sequence of play shortly after the hour mark, Messi’s influence on the game and Argentina’s chances at this World Cup was encapsulated. He fought for possession of the ball in his half, raced forward before getting it again, and then drew a free-kick from a frustrated Virgil van Dijk. The 35-year-old himself took the free kick, which rippled the top of the goal as it just missed.

In the last 20 minutes, Argentina was granted the breathing space they desired after a poor Dutch team failed to do anything offensively. Denzel Dumfries was duped into sweeping the legs of approaching wingback Marcos Acuna, and it was up to Lionel Messi to send the ball into the side netting far beyond the reach of the immobile Noppert.

At that time, it seemed like La Albiceleste would quickly advance to the semifinals. Still, Van Gaal and the Netherlands had other plans when he put the massive Weghorst onto the field to join fellow substitute and comparable forward Luuk de Jong.

Weghorst initiated the late Dutch attack by connecting with a beautiful Steven Berghuis cross and beating Martinez with a low header. When a shot hit the side netting, many spectators inside the stadium believed that a swift equalizer had been scored.

Leandro Paredes kicked the ball in the direction of the Netherlands bench as Argentina suddenly seemed to be clinging to a one-goal lead, and the Dutch route-one game entirely evaded Lionel Messi. As Dutch substitutes rushed onto the field, pushing and shoving broke out.

The last-ditch equalizer that forced extra time was a brilliant display of dead-ball wizardry. Teun Koopmeiners was about to strike a free-kick toward the goal but instead sent a beautiful ball to Weghorst down the side of the defensive wall. Argentina wasn’t anticipating that and couldn’t react in time to his finish.

The final whistle after 90 minutes provoked more altercations on the sidelines. Yet, during the first session of extra time, both teams seemed more concerned with avoiding defeat than with continuing to press for victory.

Van Dijk made a key late stop to prevent Lautaro Martinez. Then Enzo Fernandez came agonizingly close to beating Noppert with an effort deflected agonizingly over the crossbar. Martinez also forced Noppert to make a stop in the last seconds while Fernandez hit the base of the post.

Van Dijk and Berghuis had penalties saved by Martinez in the shootout, with Messi, Paredes, and Gonzalo Montiel all scoring for Argentina. Koopmeiners and Weghorst scored their respective goals. After Fernandez missed the opportunity to win it, Luuk de Jong kept the Netherlands alive until Lautaro Martinez quietly won it with the final kick.

Rankings of Netherlands players (3-4-1-2)

GK: Andries Noppert had a grade of 6 out of 10 since he was defeated twice but made a couple of saves in the last minutes of extra time.

Jurrien Timber, CB, received an unnecessary yellow card after he assaulted Acuna after the game had stopped. Committed several infractions total.

CB: Virgil van Dijk (c) – 7/10 – Made a great block in extra time.

Nathan Ake moved to left-back in the second half and performed well.

RWB: Denzel Dumfries – 5/10 – Spent a lot of time playing high up the pitch but couldn’t duplicate his exploits of the last 16. Responsible for conceding the deciding penalty.

CM: Marten de Roon – 4/10 – Didn’t establish himself in the game and was unimpressive in the tackle. Not present in the second half.

Frenkie de Jong, a central midfielder, received a score of five out of ten because he was often forced to drop deep to get possession of the ball. Although he saw a lot of it and passed it correctly, it didn’t help his side win the game.

Daley Blind could not keep up with Molina as the game-winning goal was scored.

AM: Cody Gakpo – 6/10 – Not heavily engaged for most of the first 90 minutes, and many of his attempts were unsuccessful. Activated at the very end or throughout the usual time.

ST: Steven Bergwijn – 4/10 – Did not see much of the ball, and his lone shot was way off target before being substituted at halftime.

ST: Memphis Depay – 5/10 – It was not his day. Off the field before the reversal of fortunes.

Manager: Louis van Gaal – 9/10 – Ignoring that his side fell 2-0 in the first half, he made adjustments and shifted his team’s attention to balls into the box. Similarly, the late equalizer was something that had been practiced in training.

Player rankings in Argentina (3-5-2)

Gk: Emiliano Martinez scored 7/10 for his performance in the Dutch goal. His hands were sufficiently near to it. Before it, he had never been tested, yet he proved himself in a shootout.

CB: Cristian Romero – 6/10 – Romero defended admirably, allowing the Dutch no chances while he was on the field.

Despite his lack of height compared to the Dutch giants, Nicolas Otamendi repelled the high balls into the box. But that was not how the equalizer arrived in the 101st minute.

CB: Lisandro Martinez – 6/10 – Like Otamendi, but more so.

RWB: Nahuel Molina – 8/10 – Often seemed eager to advance and was rewarded when Messi somehow spotted his advancing run.

CM: Rodrigo de Paul – 6/10 – Presented a respectable effort in the center but was forced off a little early due to an injury.

CM: Enzo Fernandez – 6/10 – Not enough opportunities to do important things with the ball until the second half. Extra time had a considerably more significant influence.

CM: Alexis Mac Allister – 6/10 – Midfielder who fought hard and played both sides of the ball.

Marcos Acuna, LWB, received a yellow card for a violent challenge on Dumfries and got in the faces of the Dutch. However, he also had a tremendous performance, and the game was already won when he left the field.

ST: Lionel Messi (c) – 8/10 – Argentina’s changing of the system did not initially appear to suit him, but he altered the game instantly when he assisted Molina’s goal 35 minutes in. In addition to scoring a penalty, he vanished when the Netherlands switched to the long ball later in the game.

ST: Julian Alvarez – 6/10 – This time, he put in a tough shift without the accolades.

Manager: Lionel Scaloni – 6/10 – His wing-back did a fantastic job determining this game, but it’s unclear how much influence the manager has when Messi is so decisive.

The game’s most valuable player was Lionel Messi (Argentina)