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'Diego is watching from heaven' - Messi pays tribute to Maradona after stunning Argentina World Cup quarter-final win over the Netherlands

8:01 pm AEDT 10/12/22
Lionel Messi Argentina 2022
Lionel Messi paid tribute to Argentina legend Diego Maradona after leading his side to a penalty shootout victory over the Netherlands on Friday.
  • Messi scored and assisted vs Netherlands
  • Argentina progress to semi-finals vs Croatia
  • Messi dedicated victory to Maradona

WHAT HAPPENED? The Albiceleste surrendered a two-goal lead with less than ten minutes to go, but were eventually victorious on penalties after goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez saved two in the shootout. Messi dedicated the victory to the Argentina legend and one of the game's greatest ever players, who he says "is watching us from heaven" and pushing the team to the very end. The 35-year-old also described the feeling of relief upon making it to the semi-finals.

WHAT THEY SAID: "Diego is watching us from heaven," Messi said after the match. "He is pushing us and I really hope this stays the same until the end. When Lautaro scored and we qualified there was a huge joy. It was a weight off our chest. It was a very hard match. From the beginning it was a really tough match, we knew it would be this way.

"We were really happy and we enjoyed that moment and that's what we can see here and also in Argentina because people are really happy, they are really excited and they are full of enthusiasm. The Dutch team made trouble for us with long balls and a lot of players in the area. In the end they drew and we suffered. But we were able to seal our passage to the semi-finals, which is what we wanted."

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Despite the match going the full distance in Lusail, veteran Messi put in another captain's performance in the first 90 that should have put his side out of sight. The boy from Rosario threaded through a pin-point pass for Nahuel Molina's opener before keeping his cool from twelve yards to make it 2-0 in the second half. Messi repeated this feat in the shootout as Argentina emerged 4-3 winners on penalties and set up a semi-final with Croatia on Tuesday.

IN THREE PHOTOS:

DID YOU KNOW? No player has created more chances in World Cup history than Lionel Messi (since Opta's records began in 1966).

WHAT NEXT FOR MESSI? The Paris Saint-Germain forward will be hoping to add to his recent Copa America triumph in 2021 with his first ever World Cup trophy. Argentina face Croatia on Tuesday with a spot in next Sunday's final up for grabs.