Argentina Reaches Copa America Semis in Thrilling Penalty Shootout

Lionel Messi, Lisandro Martínez, and Emiliano Martínez shine as Argentina edges out Ecuador on penalties to secure a place in Copa America semifinals.

Published July 06, 2024 - 00:07am

4 minutes read
United States
Argentina
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In a pulsating quarter-final match held in Houston, Texas, Argentina emerged victorious over Ecuador through a nerve-wracking penalty shootout, securing their place in the semi-finals of the Copa America. The match witnessed a plethora of dramatic moments and individual heroics as both teams fought for supremacy.

Argentina initially took the lead in the 35th minute when Alexis Mac Allister flicked on a corner from Lionel Messi, allowing Lisandro Martínez to score with a header. Despite the early advantage, Argentina's journey was far from straightforward. Ecuador's Kevin Rodríguez equalized in the first minute of second-half stoppage time, forcing the match into penalties.

The penalty shootout commenced in high tension, with Lionel Messi stepping up first for Argentina. Unlike his success in the 2022 World Cup final, Messi's Panenka attempt hit the crossbar, briefly jeopardizing Argentina's advancement. Nevertheless, their faith in goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez proved well-founded. Martínez made crucial saves, diving left to stop Ángel Mena's shot and leaping right to deny Alan Minda with a trailing hand, following each save with a celebratory dance.

Argentina's fortunes were further boosted by successful penalties from Julián Álvarez, Alexis Mac Allister, and Gonzalo Montiel. The decisive moment came when Nicolás Otamendi calmly placed his shot past Ecuadorian goalkeeper Alexander Domínguez, securing a 4-2 win for Argentina in the shootout.

After the match, Martínez reflected on their journey, saying, I wasn't ready to go home. This team deserved to advance. They complicated us a lot. They played a great match, very physical. We knew they were one of the top rivals in Copa America. His sentiments were echoed by Argentina's coach Lionel Scaloni, who praised Martínez's clutch performances and the team's resilience despite the physical and mental challenges.

Lisandro Martínez, who scored his first international goal during regular play, expressed his joy on social media, appreciating the teamwork and dedication that propelled them to the semifinals. His Manchester United teammate, Alejandro Garnacho, who did not feature in the match, congratulated him with the praise El mejor del mundo, translating to The best in the world.

The match saw a pro-Argentinian crowd of 69,456 at NRG Stadium, reflecting the immense support and passion for La Albiceleste. With this victory, Argentina eyes its third consecutive major title and a record 16th Copa America championship. They are scheduled to face the winner of Venezuela or Canada in the semifinals, set to take place in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Ecuador, despite their elimination, earned commendation for their spirited performance. Coach Félix Sánchez Bas acknowledged the team's competitiveness, stating, The quarterfinals had us playing against the most difficult opponent, and I thought we delivered well. We showed this team can compete against any opponent.

For Argentina, this semifinal advancement marks the fifth consecutive time they have reached this stage in the Copa America, underlining their consistency and prowess in continental football. As they prepare for the upcoming matches, the team's blend of experience and youthful vigor remains their strongest asset.

Despite his injury concerns, Messi's leadership and presence on the field continue to inspire. Scaloni commented on Messi's condition post-match, I think he finished the match well. We asked him how he was feeling for the last time four minutes before the end. This ongoing debate over Messi's fitness and his eventual performances will undoubtedly remain a focal point for fans and critics alike.

As the Copa America 2024 progresses, Argentina's journey is being closely watched, with anticipation building for their potential clash with South American rivals. The blend of skill, strategy, and individual brilliance makes each match a spectacle, and Argentina's quest for glory is far from over.

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