Argentina survived a remarkable Netherlands comeback to finally triumph on penalties in a drama-choked World Cup quarter-final in Lusail.
The game tied at 2-2 after a riotous and ill-tempered game – Dutch substitute Wout Weghorst equalising in the 10th minutes of injury-time after a cleverly worked free-kick – the tie went all the way to penalties.
Goalkeeper Emi Martinez saved Netherlands opening two spot kicks, and while Enzo Fernandez drilled an effort wide with a chance to win it, Lautaro Martinez stepped over the fifth kick, coolly slotting home to send Argentina into the semis and the majority of the crowd into raptures.
In a scrappy half-hour of extra time with the scores level, Enzo Fernandez rattled the post in the closing seconds while Martinez and German Pezzella also had efforts blocked or parried away as Argentina desperately pushed for a winner.
Argentina captain Lionel Messi had superbly set up Nahuel Molina for their first-half opener, threading a sublime pass through the Dutch defence, before coolly slotting in a penalty in the 73rd minute after Denzel Dumfries fouled Marcos Acuna.
From that point it looked as though La Albiceleste would cruise through to the semi-finals, but Van Gaal and the Netherlands had other ideas when he sent the giant Weghorst on to join fellow sub and similar target man Luuk de Jong already on the pitch.
Weghorst set up the late Dutch onslaught after connecting with a wonderful Steven Berghuis cross, powering a low header past Martinez. Plenty of fans inside the stadium then thought there had been a quickfire equaliser when an effort was thrashed into the side netting.
As Argentina suddenly looked to cling on and the Dutch route-one game bypassed Messi completely, tempers again flared as substitute Leandro Paredes booted the ball in the direction the Netherlands bench. Cue a melee as Dutch subs piled onto the pitch and pushing and shoving ensued.
The last gasp equaliser to force extra-time was an incredible piece of dead ball ingenuity. Teun Koopmeiners shaped to lash a free-kick at goal, but instead played a deft pass to Weghorst by the side of the defensive wall. Argentina weren’t expecting it and couldn’t react in time to his finish.
The final whistle at the end of the 90 sparked more flare-ups at the side of the pitch. Yet the first period of extra-time was then very flat from both sides, perhaps suddenly more concerned about not losing than keep pushing for the win.
Argentina finished the stronger of the sides in extra-time, with Van Dijk making a crucial late block to deny Lautaro Martinez and then Enzo Fernandez almost beating Noppert unconventionally after his shot was deflected agonisingly over the cross bar. Martinez also forced Noppert into a save in the dying moments, while Fernandez cracked one off the base of the post.
Van Dijk and Berghuis both had penalties saved by Martinez in the shootout, with Messi, Paredes and Gonzalo Montiel all converting for Argentina. Koopmeiners and Weghorst each scored theirs. After Fernandez missed the chance to win it, Luuk de Jong kept Netherlands alive, before Lautaro Martinez calmly won it with the last kick.