LUSAIL, Qatar (AP)Emiliano Martinez pulled up his shorts and performed a dance in front of Argentina’s fans.
Once again the Argentina goalkeeper was his country’s penalty-shootout star, this time at the World Cup.
Martinez made diving saves off penalties from Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghuis in a 4-3 shootout win over the Netherlands in the quarterfinals on Friday, after the match finished 2-2 after extra time.
”I couldn’t help the boys by making a save in the first 90 minutes,” Martinez said, ”but I had to help them there.”
It’s not the first time he has led Argentina to victory in a shootout.
Last year in the Copa America semifinals, the Aston Villa goalkeeper opted for an unconventional, controversial strategy before stopping shots from Davinson Sanchez, Yerry Mina and Edwin Cardona as Argentina won 3-2 on penalties.
As Colombia’s players got ready to take their kicks, the 30-year-old Martinez confronted them.
”I am sorry, but I will stop you, bro,” Martinez yelled before he saved from Sanchez.
”You’re laughing because you’re nervous,” he then told Mina. ”I know you.”
Argentina went on to beat Brazil in the final to end a 28-year wait for a major title.
Martinez was hardly restrained against the Netherlands, either.
Before the shootout began, Martinez looked at the Argentina fans behind him and whipped them up. The noise was deafening inside Lusail Stadium as the Dutch players took their penalties.
When it was Berghuis’ turn, Martinez took the ball from the Netherlands substitute to distract him.
Martinez then made the save and danced a jig.
”Thank God I saved two, and I could have saved more,” said Martinez, who fell to the ground after Lautaro Martinez converted the winning penalty before getting to his feet and running toward the Dutch bench to insult his opponents.
Much of his vitriol might have been directed at Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal, who spoke ahead of the game about how confident he was that his team would win if it went to a penalty shootout.
Martinez said he took a screenshot of Van Gaal’s words and sent them to his psychologist.
”It lit the dynamite,” Martinez said.
”In soccer, I learned that people do their talking on the field. They said a lot of stupid things before the game … That made me stronger.”
Speaking about Van Gaal in particular, Martinez said: ”I think he needs to keep his mouth shut.”
Martinez didn’t stop there. He also criticized the performance of Spanish referee, Antonio Mateu, saying he ”was giving everything for” the Netherlands them.
”He gave 10 minutes (of stoppage time) for no reason, he gave them free kicks outside the box two or three times,” Martinez said. ”He just wanted them to score. That’s basically it.
”I hope we don’t have that referee any more. He is useless.”
Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80
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