Lionel Messi blames World Cup 'nerves' for Netherlands gesture & Wout Weghorst 'tension'
- Action-packed quarter-final clash in Qatar
- Cards and goals aplenty
- Albiceleste prevailed in a penalty shootout
WHAT HAPPENED? The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner headed into the historic tournament in the Middle East aware that he could be facing a last shot at claiming a global crown. Tension built steadily as a result, especially once Argentina recovered from a slow start to reach the knockout stages, with passion coming to the boil in a last-eight showdown with the Netherlands that saw 17 yellows and a red card handed out before Messi and Co finally prevailed in a penalty shootout.
WHAT THEY SAID: Messi took to cupping his ears in the direction of Van Gaal after netting from the spot in normal time, following comments from the Dutch coach regarding Argentine icon Juan Roman Riquelme, with the all-time great telling Urbana Play of his actions: “I don't like what I did, I don't like what happened afterward. These are moments of a lot of tension, a lot of nerves. It is very quick and people react the way they react. Nothing was planned, it just happened.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Messi added on his angry tunnel exchange with Weghorst, who took the tie to extra-time with two late goals: “I reacted that way. There had been many things with this player, moments of tension like these... I was in the mixed zone, it had just happened. I don't like to leave that image, but these things happen.”
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WHAT NEXT? After disposing of the Netherlands, Argentina eased past Croatia in the semi-finals before taking in another penalty shootout at the end of an epic final clash with France – with the Albiceleste holding their nerve from 12 yards as Messi got his hands on the most sought-after of trophies and cemented his standing as football’s GOAT.