July 17, 2024

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Emiliano Martinez saves Argentina after Lionel Messi misses penalty in Copa America shootout

Emiliano Martinez saves Argentina after Lionel Messi misses penalty in Copa America shootout

For most of Thursday’s match, Argentina were in fine form. Over more than 360 minutes of the 2024 Copa America, the defending champions have not conceded a single goal.

But just after 10 p.m. in Houston, Argentina were on the verge of elimination, stunned by Ecuador and losing on penalties after Lionel Messi missed his chance to take the penalty — until goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez saved.

Argentina led 1-0 for much of the tense match, but were unable to impose themselves. In stoppage time of the second half, Ecuador equalized, shocking the 70,000 fans at the NRG Stadium, and forcing a penalty shootout.

In the penalty shootout, after a long, lonely walk from the middle of the field to the penalty spot, Messi took the penalty kick directly into the middle of the goal, and it bounced off the crossbar and into the roof of the net.

But Martinez, the hero of the 2022 World Cup final and perhaps the best penalty keeper in the world, responded with a decisive save to deny Ecuador’s first attempt.

Messi, who was holding the arm of teammate Cristian Romero, pumped the ball towards Martinez as if to say a relieved “thank you”.

After Julian Alvarez scored Argentina’s winning goal in the penalty shootout, Martinez made another great save, diving to his right and stopping the ball with his powerful left hand.

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Martinez, who is both loved and despised for his showmanship, playing skill and adventures, jumped off the turf, turned to the fans behind the goal and started dancing.

At that moment, it seemed as if Ecuador had no chance. Suddenly, Argentina’s magic returned. Alexis Mac Allister scored to put Argentina 2-0 up.

Ecuador scored the next two penalties, but Gonzalo Montiel, who scored the decisive spot kick in Qatar 19 months ago, held his nerve to give Argentina a 3-1 lead. Nicolas Otamendi converted the spot kick to book Argentina’s place in the semi-finals, where they will face the winner of Friday’s Canada-Venezuela match.

For a few minutes of Thursday’s game, the team looked like they were on their way to the semifinals. But it wasn’t a good performance at all. Martinez ended a long run of scoreless games early in the first half with a brilliant save.

Eventually, Argentina managed to score their first goal on goal. Mac Allister met a Messi corner at the near post, and crossed the ball to the far post, where Lisandro Martinez was waiting smartly to tap it in.

But the Argentine attack was unusually quiet for most of the match, and Messi, who had recovered from an injury he sustained nine days earlier in the Chile match, was not at his best.

Fifteen minutes into the second half, Ecuador were awarded a penalty – but Enner Valencia hit the post after passing to Emi Martinez the wrong way.

However, the weaker team managed to overcome the title holders, and finally got a deserved equaliser in stoppage time.

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Two minutes later, they almost crushed Argentina with a second goal, when Jordi Caicedo headed wide.

So, extra time was bypassed in the quarter-finals and went to penalties – as happens in all Copa America knockout matches before the final if the match ends in a draw.

But in the shootout, Argentina had an unshakable, 6ft 5in advantage: the man they call “Dipo,” the late-blooming goalkeeper who allowed Messi to conquer the world on December 18, 2022, and who repeated similar heroics on Thursday night.

His dribbling skills may not have worked, but his size and instincts destroyed Ecuador, and saved Argentina from the brink.

After Otamendi sealed the win, Messi waves his right fist againAfter a short while, the Argentines started singing and dancing again.