ANKARA – Argentina toppled the Netherlands on Friday in a thrilling penalty shootout by 4-3 and will play Croatia in the World Cup semifinals.
The Argentine national team took the lead in the 35th minute as Nahuel Molina finished in a one-on-one after Lionel Messi sent a perfect through ball into the penalty area.
It was Molina's first international goal.
Argentina led at the end of the first half 1-0 at Lusail Stadium.
In the 73rd minute, the referee awarded a penalty to Argentina when Marcos Acuna was brought down in the penalty area.
Messi successfully converted to double the gap.
He equaled former forward Gabriel Batistuta with the most World Cup goals for Argentina with 10 goals in the tournament's history.
But Netherlands’ forward Wout Weghorst scored on a header to narrow the gap in the 83rd minute.
The Dutch were full of hope during 10 minutes of stoppage time as Weghorst was on the score sheet again to spoil Argentina's party.
The Besiktas striker scored in the final minute of injury time and sent the match to extra time.
Near the end of regular time, Teun Koopmeiners took a freekick but sent a low ball to Weghorst. The pass tricked the Argentina wall. Weghorst finished to make it 2-2.
In extra time, Lautaro Martinez's shot was parried by goalkeeper Andries Noppert, then Argentina's Enzo Fernandez hit the crossbar.
In penalty kicks, Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez saved twice in a heroic performance.
Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghuis had their penalties saved.
Koopmeiners, Weghorst and Luuk de Jong scored for the Netherlands.
For Argentina, Messi, Leandro Paredes, Gonzalo Montiel and Lautaro Martinez scored. Only Fernandez missed.
Argentina will take on Croatia on Dec. 13.
Croatia beat Brazil 4-2, also on penalties, as neither team were able to break the deadlock for the first 45 minutes at Doha's Education City Stadium.
In the 105th minute, Brazil scored the opener when Neymar made a close-range finish, assisted by Lucas Paqueta.
With this goal, Neymar equaled legendary striker Pele's Brazil goalscoring record of 77.
Croatia leveled the match with a minute-117 goal from Bruno Petkovic in the center of the penalty box, with Mislav Orsic assisting.
The extra time ended with a 1-1 tie.
Nikola Vlasic, Lovro Majer, Luka Modric, and Orsic respectively converted their spot kicks against Brazil during the penalty shootout.
Rodrigo and Marquinhos missed their penalties, while Casemiro and Pedro converted the penalties for Brazil. (Anadolu)