Emiliano Martínez saves Argentina after Lionel Messi misses penalty kick in Copa América shootout TERMAN WEBSITE

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HOUSTON, TEXAS - JULY 04: Emiliano Martinez of Argentina celebrates stoping the first penalty in the penalty shoot out during the CONMEBOL Copa America 2024 quarter-final match between Argentina and Ecuador at NRG Stadium on July 04, 2024 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

For many of 90 minutes Thursday evening, Argentina was comfy. For 360-plus minutes at this 2024 Copa América, the reigning champions of every little thing had not conceded a purpose.

Just a little after 10 p.m. in Houston, although, they had been getting ready to elimination, surprised by Ecuador and down in a penalty shootout after Lionel Messi missed — till goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez saved the day.

Argentina was forward 1-0 for many of a tense match, however by no means dominant. And in second-half stoppage time, Ecuador equalized — sending 70,000 followers at NRG Stadium right into a state of shock, and sending the sport straight to penalties.

Within the shootout, Messi, after a protracted, lonely stroll from midfield to the spot, chipped his penalty straight down the center of the purpose, off the crossbar, and onto the roof of the online.

However Martínez, the hero of the 2022 World Cup last and maybe the most effective penalty stopper on the planet, responded with an emphatic save on Ecuador’s first try.

Messi, arm in arm with teammate Cristian Romero, pumped his first towards Martínez, as if to say a relieved “thanks.”

After Julián Álvarez scored to get Argentina off the mark within the shootout, Martínez produced one other exceptional save, diving to his proper, and parrying the ball with a large left hand.

Martínez, who’s each beloved and despised for his showmanship, gamesmanship and antics, leapt up off the grass, turned to followers behind the purpose, and danced.

In that second, it was as if Ecuador not stood an opportunity. La Albiceleste’s mojo had abruptly returned. Alexis Mac Allister put them forward 2-0.

Ecuador would convert its subsequent two penalties, however Gonzalo Montiel, who scored the clincher in Qatar 19 months in the past, stayed calm to provide Argentina a commanding 3-1 lead. And Nicolás Otamendi buried his penalty to guide Argentina’s place within the semifinals, the place they will face the winner of Friday’s Canada-Venezuela match.

For all however a couple of minutes Thursday evening, they appeared destined for that semifinal. However they by no means appeared particularly good. Martínez stored their multi-game scoreless streak intact early within the first half with a sprawling save.

Argentina ultimately scored with its very first shot on track. Mac Allister met a Messi nook on the close to publish, and flicked it towards the far publish, the place Lisandro Martínez was cleverly ready to nod it residence.

The Argentine assault, although, was atypically quiet for a lot of the evening. Messi, having overcome an damage suffered 9 days earlier in opposition to Chile, wasn’t his normal self.

Fifteen minutes into the second half, Ecuador earned a penalty — however Enner Valencia rolled it off the publish after sending Emi Martínez the mistaken method.

The underdogs, although, bellied as much as the defending champs, and at last received their deserved equalizer in stoppage time.

A pair minutes later, they nearly floored Argentina with a second purpose. Jordy Caicedo’s free-but-miscued header flashed huge.

So the quarterfinal skipped further time and went to penalties — as do all Copa América knockout-round video games previous to the ultimate if tied.

However within the shootout, Argentina had one gargantuan, unflinching, 6-foot-5 benefit: the person they name “Dibu,” the late-blooming goalkeeper who allowed Messi to overcome the world on Dec. 18, 2022, and who reproduced related heroics Thursday evening.

His gamesmanship may not have labored, however his measurement and instincts devastated Ecuador, and rescued Argentina from the brink.

After Otamendi sealed the victory, Messi pumped his proper fist as soon as extra. And earlier than lengthy, the Argentines had been singing and dancing once more.

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