By STEVE DOUGLAS
LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) — Lionel Messi started the game by delivering another football clinic. The Argentine superstar finished it with a bloody upper lip, shouting abuse at his opponents and even blasting the referee.
And of course there were also goals for one of the game’s greats whose bid to win the World Cup for the first time is still on.
Messi heads to the semi-finals with Argentina after a chaotic penalty shoot-out victory over the Netherlands who had pretty much everything on Friday.
Argentina took a 2-0 lead, conceded an equalizer in the 11th minute of second-half stoppage time to send the game into extra time at 2-2, then won the shootout 4-3 amid deafening noise inside Lusail Stadium.
Messi, who scored a penalty in regulation time, converted his penalty in the shootout while goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez made two saves to help Argentina secure a semi-final game against Croatia, who beat Brazil earlier on Friday.
After Lautaro Martinez scored the decisive penalty, Messi – arms outstretched – sprinted towards the goalkeeper, who had fallen to the ground beside the goal, and lay on top of him.
“We had to suffer,” Messi said, “but we managed.”
Messi did so, in particular, in an often violent match that featured 17 yellow cards – a record for a World Cup match – two of which went to Dutch defender Denzel Dumfries, leading to him being sent off. after the game.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni called the match “ugly” and Messi slammed Spain referee Antonio Mateu, saying: “I don’t think he was up to it. He was very harmful for us.
In a seldom-seen Messi squad, he also interrupted his post-match on-field interview to shout insults at Netherlands two-goal striker Wout Weghorst.
“What are you looking at, silly?” Messi was heard saying.
Messi and his team-mates remained on the pitch for 20 minutes at the end, taking turns dancing and jumping up and down in front of the celebrating and scarf-waving Argentina fans.
Messi says the late Diego Maradona is watching the team.
“Diego is watching us from heaven,” Messi said of the former Argentina captain and coach who died two years ago. “He pushes us. I hope it stays that way until the end.”
It’s only the second time Argentina have reached the last four since 1990. In 2014, Messi was part of the team that lost to Germany in the final and he seems in the mood to get back there in a tournament which he turns into his own personal highlight reel.
Messi delivered fascinating skill and vision to set up Nahuel Molina’s opener in the 35th minute. He broke free in central midfield and exploded forward, throwing Dutch defender Nathan Ake off balance, then delivered a no-look reverse pass for Molina to finish for his first international goal.
His 73rd-minute penalty, which came after Marcus Acuna was triggered by Dumfries, was his fourth goal of the tournament and took him to 10 on aggregate in the World Cup – tied with Gabriel Batistuta for the most for Argentina. Messi now has 94 goals in 169 international matches.
With his team trailing 2-0, Dutch coach Louis van Gaal sent in two great forwards – Weghorst and Luuk De Jong – and even told centre-back Virgil van Dijk to play up front. The game suddenly changed.
Weghorst eyed a header from a right wing cross in the 78th – five minutes after coming on – then scored the final goal in the second half in a knockout tie in of a World Cup.
On a cleverly crafted free-kick routine learned by Weghorst at his Turkish club Besiktas, Teun Koopmeiners feigned to shoot from the edge of the box but instead played it short and low in the middle of the box. It fooled the Argentine defense as Weghorst took a throw-in, held his marker and scored home a finish on the stretch.
Enzo Fernandez hit the post near the end of extra time and was then the only Argentine player not to score in the shootout. Martinez’s saves came from attempts by Van Dijk and Steven Berghuis, after which he pulled up his shorts and danced a jig.
The defeat ended 71-year-old Van Gaal’s third term in charge of the Netherlands. He also coached the team at the 2014 World Cup when Argentina beat the Dutch in a penalty shootout in the semi-finals.
“Since we arrived here,” Van Gaal said, “we’ve focused on penalties. We thought we were going to win the penalty shootout.
Argentina defenders Marcus Acuna and Gonzalo Montiel will miss the semi-finals after picking up the tournament’s second yellow cards
Steve Douglas is on https://twitter.com/sdouglas80
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports