After Argentina beat the Netherlands in a highly charged quarterfinal of FIFA World Cup 2022 on Friday, December 9, the team’s captain, Lionel Messi paid tribute to all-time great Argentine football legend Diego Maradona in a post-match interview. 

Messi said that he believed Argentina was being driven forward by the spirit of Maradona, who captained the country’s national football team to World Cup glory in 1986.

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“Diego is seeing us from heaven. He is pushing us and I really hope this stays the way until the end,” said Messi. “We are really happy. We enjoyed that moment. People are really happy and excited. We are among the four final ones. I have to say that now we have a weight off our shoulders.”

He added: “It was a very hard match I have to say. It was a really tough match. We knew it would be this way. But we suffered a lot and we didn’t deserve that because we were 2-0 up. The way that we had to play it, we had to change our game and face different moments. The Dutch team made trouble for us with long balls. We were able to seal our passage to the semi-finals, which is what we wanted.”

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Argentina and the Dutch were drawn 2-2 before the end of stoppage time and had to let the penalty shootout decide their fate ahead. Emi Martinez calmly saved the first two Dutch penalties and Argentina’s Lautaro Martinez led his team to victory by scoring the decisive spot-kick. Argentina now looks to play Croatia for a place in the final.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said his team had no problem finding players willing to take penalties.

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“Sometimes it’s difficult in these situations, they shy away. This time we had too many volunteers. … We only had to decide the order of our penalty takers,” Scaloni said. “It is true that we would have deserved to avoid the penalty shootout but still we fought until the end… This was a very strange second half. Everything was controlled by us but then we know what happens with football.”

He added: “It is a beautiful game, when you think that everything is over, you are surprised. This team had experience, pride, young players, and this is key, because we want to fight.”