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Emi Martínez saves Lionel Messi and Argentina in Copa América penalty shootout

July 5th, 2024

For most of 90 minutes Thursday night, Argentina was comfortable. For 360-plus minutes at this 2024 Copa América, the reigning champions of everything had not conceded a single goal.

A little after 10 p.m. in Houston, though, they were on the brink of elimination, stunned by Ecuador and down in a penalty shootout after Lionel Messi missed — until goalkeeper Emi Martínez saved the day.

Argentina was ahead for most of a tense match, but never dominant. And in second-half stoppage time, Ecuador equalized — sending 70,000 fans at NRG Stadium into a state of shock, and sending the game straight to penalties.

In the shootout, Messi, after a long, lonely walk from midfield to the spot, chipped his penalty straight down the middle of the goal, off the crossbar, and onto the roof of the net.

But Martínez, the hero of the 2022 World Cup final and perhaps the best penalty stopper in the world, responded with an emphatic save on Ecuador’s first attempt.

Messi, arm in arm with teammate Cristian Romero, pumped his first toward Martinez, as if to say a relieved “thank you.”

After Julián Álvarez scored to get Argentina off the mark in the shootout, Martinez produced another remarkable save, diving to his right, and parrying the ball with a massive left hand.

Martínez, who is both beloved and despised for his showmanship, gamesmanship and antics, leapt up off the grass, turned to fans behind the goal, and danced.

In that moment, it was as if Ecuador no longer stood a chance. La Albiceleste’s mojo had suddenly returned. Alexis Mac Allister put them ahead 2-0.

Ecuador would convert its next two penalties, but Gonzalo Montiel, who scored the clincher in Qatar 19 months ago, stayed calm to give Argentina a commanding 3-1 lead. And Nicolás Otamendi buried his penalty to book Argentina’s place in the semifinals, where they’ll face either Canada or Venezuela.

This content was originally sourced and posted at Yahoo! Sports – News, Scores, Standings, Rumors, Fantasy Games »
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