Emiliano Martinez has been dubbed “a hero” by former Argentine defender Pablo Zabaleta after his crucial penalty saves that saw his team beat the Netherlands to advance to the semi-finals.
Argentina were up 2-0, but the Dutch fought back from two goals down to level at 2-2 in the last minute of normal time with a creative free-kick play.
However, Martinez’s efforts saw him save two penalties, helping Argentina win the shootout 4-3.
“Emi Martinez, a hero. We praise Messi, but Martinez is a hero,” Zabaleta said to the BBC studio panel.
Martinez saved Netherlands’ first two penalties, taken by captain Virgil van Dijk, and Steven Berghuis.
“It is a fantastic save,” said Rio Ferdinand about the first penalty.
“He looked supremely confident going into this because of the history he’s had in competitions saving penalties.”
“He is a bit crazy as well,” added Zabaleta as he laughed at the images of the Argentine keeper dancing after keeping the ball out twice.
“[With his celebrations] he brings the fans right behind the team.
The panel were also quick to give Lionel Messi his credit, raving about his assist for Argentina’s first goal.
“Incredible the way he travels with the ball, and to have the ability to spot that pass, and the run, and the weight of pass. Exceptional… Fantastic goal,” commented former England striker, Alan Shearer.
“Just for that guy alone, Messi, they are not a great team, but they have a genius up front.”
Lionel Scaloni’s side now remain the last South American team in the tournament, with Brazil being knocked out on penalties earlier in the day.
“Argentina were the better team. The last 10 minutes, we needed to play better; we gave free kicks away that gave the Netherlands a chance,” said Zabaleta.
“It’s always good to see a South American team in the semi-final. The fans have been amazing tonight, right behind the team.”
Argentina will take on Croatia in the 2022 FIFA World Cup semi-finals on Tuesday.