The Argentina–Netherlands game in the quarter-finals of the Qatar World Cup was definitely one for the ages. It basically had everything for the complete entertaining package.
There were goals, last-minute drama, LOTS of bookings, brawls and a penalty shootout as a cherry on top.
The match was absolutely thrilling stuff that kept every fan at the edge of their seats because of the uncertainty and tension over what will happen next.
In the end, Argentina prevailed in the shootout – with goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez being their hero with a string of impressive penalty saves.
Most of the drama happened in normal time and in extra time, especially as things moved into the latter stages of the bout. Argentina were frustrated with the Netherlands’ playing style and dirty tactics in trying to rile them into losing their concentration.
The game was so heated that it so a whole new side of Lionel Messi. The PSG forward is normally known for having a cool and composed attitude, as well as not being effective by ugly tactics from opposition players.
But it appeared that he was ticked off by some of the things happening during the game and did not shy away from making his anger felt.
Messi even got involved in the huge brawl that happened during the game when Argentina midfielder Leandro Paredes appeared to smack a dead ball right into the Dutch bench area.
It provoked the Netherlands’ players from the bench to all charge into the pitch to confront the PSG midfielder, who didn’t appear to realize the kind of brawl he had started.
The tempers had flared off at that point and almost everyone on the pitch wanted a piece of the opposition player. Messi didn’t shy away at that point too and appeared to storm his way to confront some of the Dutch players himself.
He appeared to charge at former Barcelona teammate Frenkie de Jong before being stopped in his tracks by Manchester City defender Nathan Ake.
Messi started to shove Ake, which caused the centre-back also to retaliate and he was almost ready to go into a shoving battle when his captain Virgil van Dijk intervened.
The Liverpool defender is a big fan of Leo and decided to play peacekeeper at a time when almost everyone on the pitch was angry.
He seemingly ordered Ake to move away from the situation and put his arm around Messi, almost acting as his protector to ensure that no other from the Netherlands squad was able to push him around.
A number of Argentina benched players noticed that their captain was being troubled and hurried their way onto the pitch to take him from Van Dijk’s grasp and move him away from the trouble.
Paulo Dybala, who hasn’t played a single minute for Argentina so far, also seemed to give Ake a major shove to get him away from Messi.
Van Dijk has received a lot of praise for showcasing admirable sportsmanship in protecting Messi at a point when he even could’ve gotten involved in harassing him. He did it even at the risk of incurring the wrath of his own Dutch fans for ‘protecting the enemy’.
The Netherlands’ captain’s day definitely got worse after that point, as he went on to miss the first penalty of the shootout – giving Argentina an early lead and giving them the momentum to win the game and move onto the semi-finals.