The World Cup quarterfinal games proved to be some of the best in the entire tournament. Let’s take a look at Argentina vs Netherlands and Brazil vs Croatia.
Argentina Narrowly Edge Past Netherlands
Argentina defeated the Netherlands in a nail-biting 4-3 penalty shootout to advance to the World Cup final and face Croatia in the round of 16.
After Nahuel Molina scored his first goal for Argentina, Lionel Messi added a second from the penalty spot with less than 20 minutes remaining, and Argentina appeared to be coasting into the semifinals.
But with the Netherlands’ first shot on goal and a beautifully executed free kick in the 11th minute of injury time, substitute Wout Weghorst capitalized on a wonderful Steven Berghuis cross to bring his team back into the game.
The quarterfinal match went to the dreaded spot-kicks despite Argentina’s replacement Lautaro Martinez hitting the post in the final second of overtime.
The first two Netherlands penalties from Virgil van Dijk and Berghuis were saved by Emiliano Martinez, giving the Dutch a mountain to climb. Lautaro Martinez then scored the go-ahead penalty to give Argentina the 4-3 shootout victory.
Memphis Depay wasted the Netherlands’ best opportunity midway through the half by sending his low shot beyond. Argentina appeared the sharper and more determined of the two teams in the opening 45 minutes.
As he threaded the ball through to Molina, who stretched to take a touch before slipping the ball past the charging Andries Noppert, Messi hardly glanced up as he avoided three Dutch players. After Molina’s goal, Argentina leaded 1-0 at the break.
At halftime, the Netherlands made two substitutions, removing a distressed Bergwijn and Martin de Roon and substituting Teun Koopmeiners and Berghuis for the duo. Messi came close to scoring from a free kick on the edge of the box, but the Dutch were unable to increase their level of play. Messi’s shot landed on the roof of the right corner of the goal.
With less than 20 minutes remaining, it appeared as though they had defeated their rivals after a reckless foul by Denzel Dumfries on Marcos Acuna resulted in a penalty for Argentina. From the penalty spot, Messi made no mistakes, sending Noppert totally the wrong way before slotting the ball into the corner carelessly.
However, the Dutch were rewarded with a goal in the 83rd minute when Weghorst, a fellow substitute, knocked the ball past Martinez’s valiant dive. The Netherlands had closed Argentina’s lead, but not many believed that they would be able to score another with just little left to play in the match.
The Argentinians maintained their 2-1 advantage until 11 minutes into stoppage time, when Koopmeiners deftly turned a free-kick and found Weghorst open to score and equalize the game for his side by putting the ball past Martinez.
After being completely taken aback by the abrupt turn of events in the first extra period, Argentina regained composure and pounded the Dutch goal with shots. Enzo Hernandez came the closest to scoring with a rasping effort that hit the post.
The late push gave Argentina the advantage going into the shootout, and Martinez strengthened it by saving Van Dijk’s and Berghuis’ penalty efforts.
Following the World Cup match, the Netherlands coach and soccer ledgend, Louis van Gaal, announced his official resignation from the position. He was the second coach to do that today, along with Brazil’s head coach, Tite.
Brazil Stunned By Croatia
Brazil’s last dance in the World Cup is over. For over two hours, this seemed more like a languid waltz into disaster, yet in extra time, an intense quarterfinal exploded with exhilarating intensity.
Neymar collapsed to the ground in tears, the majority of the enthusiastic crowd became silent for a while, and Croatia’s entire team ran gleefully after their hero on any occasion requiring a penalty shootout. Dominik Livakovic had previously stopped three of Japan’s penalty kicks, so when he turned away Rodrygo’s attempt, it was game over and another remarkable tournament win for a side that doesn’t know what it means to lose.
However, how in the world did Brazil allow this to happen? They had struggled to maintain control the whole game, producing the better opportunities but frequently losing possession and ground to a cunning Croatian midfield.
But it appeared like they—and Neymar in particular—had their chance just before the halfway mark of the extra period. Once in a while, rat-a-tat passes—first with Rodrygo, then with Lucas Paquetá—paid off, and their talisman’s exquisite angled finish seemed to be the winter’s defining moment.
Instead, it will be mentioned in accounts of a flightiness that, in the end, would come to characterize Brazil’s campaign. A magnificent tackle on Fred by the great Josko Gvardiol four minutes before the end restored their lead when it had not been in danger. As a result of Luka Modric’s straightforward yet lethal pass into space for Nikola Vlasic, they were suddenly exposed.
The move culminated with Mislav Orsic centring from the left for his fellow substitute and Dinamo Zagreb colleague, Bruno Petkovic, to sweep in via a deflection. Croatia had six players around the box to Brazil’s five. They had appeared to be on their feet, but Brazil is not the first country to realize that they are frequently at their most deadly in such conditions. Croatia tied up the game with just three minutes left in the game.
In the penalty shootout, Croatia appeared at ease. As a result of Livakovi’s save on Rodrygo and Marquinhos’ missed penalty attempt off the post, Croatia advanced to the semifinals.
And so with that, Croatia have triumphed over the World Cup favorites, and will face off against Argentina in just four days.