EXCLUSIVE: Emi Martinez says Lionel Messi speech made him want to cry & opens up on THAT save to help Argentina win World Cup
After his World Cup heroics in Qatar, it is easy to forget that just a year-and-a-half earlier, Lionel Messi hadn't won a major international trophy in 15 years with the national team.
In the 2021 Copa America, the Albiceleste topped Group A before seeing off Ecuador and Colombia in the knockouts - the latter on penalties through the help of their goalkeeper.
Preparing to face hosts Brazil and with his international reputation on the line, Messi delivered a now famous speech rallying his Argentina players, a moment Martinez told GOAL moved him to his core.
"It really touched me," the Albiceleste shot-stopper said. "I really felt like I wanted to cry because he mentioned my daughter. My wife gave birth 10 days before the (Copa America) final, so Messi said something about 'he hasn't even seen his newborn daughter to stay here with us', so make sure we do it for him. Messi saying that... it gives you goosebumps. It was a really nice start to that day for me.
A first-half strike from Angel Di Maria was enough to land Argentina a first major trophy in 18 years and - perhaps just as importantly - Messi's first of his career.
Of course, the boy from Rosario wouldn't have to wait so long for his next accolade, the most coveted of them all - the 2022 World Cup.
But it could all have been very different had Martinez not intervened.
After a rollercoaster of a match in which France - and Kylian Mbappe - had twice come from behind to draw the levels at 3-3, the hosts had the chance to snatch it in the 123rd minute.
But Martinez stuck out a leg to produce what he calls "the best save of his career", and a stop which he admitted to GOAL still makes him think at night.
"When I go to bed, when I close my eyes, I'm thinking 'what if that goes in?'," Argentina's No.1 revealed. "I couldn't enjoy it at the time. It was so quick. (Hugo) Lloris cleared it, we headed it back, (Ibrahima) Konate cleared it again and all of sudden (Randal) Kolo Muani is one-v-one against me. Normally I would rush out to the ball but I was cool, I waited for him.
"I put a little bit of pressure. You see my left arm and my left leg goes to the near-post because I was praying, thinking that the ball would go there. I didn't move my face, I closed my eyes and I thought 'please hit me' and it did. I never turned my face. If it hit me here (points to his nose), better, you know, make sure it doesn't go in. It will be probably the best save of my football career."
Martinez's heroics would continue into the penalty shoot-out, with Argentina and Messi emerging victorious. The Albiceleste keeper receiving the Golden Glove for his efforts, in an award which warranted its own questionable celebration.
Check out the full episode of Kit Collector on GOAL's Youtube channel.