When Argentina ultimately defeated the Netherlands in a turbulent, dramatic, and occasionally unpleasant World Cup quarterfinal, huge throngs of their supporters erupted into their second round of wild celebrations at Lusail Stadium. It was getting close to 1am local time.
Lionel Messi’s quest to capture the one top trophy that has eluded him throughout his career is the first layer of Argentina’s sense of destiny that is taking shape in Qatar.
And it was heightened before to the game as Croatia defeated Brazil on penalties, sharpening the tension as the songs that have served as Argentina’s World Cup campaign soundtrack filled the surroundings of this futuristic arena.
Argentina’s players and supporters rejoiced twice, but they also had to win this quarterfinal twice after blowing a 2-0 lead in the 11th minute of stoppage time before winning 4-3 on penalties to go to Tuesday’s World Cup semifinal against Croatia, the tournament’s very own mentality monsters.
When the odd figure of Wout Weghorst, on loan from Burnley at Besiktas and on as a substitute, scored two late goals to force extra time, the Argentine masses, who made up the vast bulk of the 88,235 spectators, were momentarily quiet.
After expertly setting up Nahuel Molina’s goal before halftime and then making it 2-0 from the penalty spot in the 73rd minute, Argentina’s 35-year-old Messi appeared to be leading them into the semifinals with plenty to spare in what is undoubtedly his final World Cup.
Emi Martinez, the goalkeeper for Aston Villa, saved the first two Netherlands penalty kicks from Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghuis, giving Argentina a 4-3 victory margin.
Argentina’s celebrations were a mix of relief, unadulterated joy, and a mounting sense that this World Cup could actually belong to them, especially following Brazil’s elimination. However, they underestimate Croatia at their peril.
Long after Argentina’s jubilant players had left the scene, their fans took over large portions of Lusail Stadium and sang every song in their songbook for almost an hour.
The party continued late into the night even after they finally left, only moving outside with the accompaniment of drums and horns.
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