Emiliano Martinez shootout heroics help Argentina into Copa America final match-up with Brazil
Emiliano Martinez was the hero for Argentina as he saved three times in a shootout to take his team into a Copa America final match-up with Brazil after Tuesday’s semi-final against Colombia finished 1-1 in regulation time.
Martinez, who tried to distract Colombia’s players in the shootout with a barrage of trash talk, saved from Davinson Sanchez, Yerry Mina and Edwin Cardona.
Lionel Messi, Leandro Paredes and Lautaro Martinez scored for Argentina as they booked a spot against the host nation in Saturday’s final at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium.
“I’m speechless,” said ’keeper Martinez. “They took us to penalties and that’s a question of luck, today (Tuesday) it was my turn for glory.”
Messi, too, paid tribute to Martinez.
“It was difficult at times,” he said. “But we have ‘Emi’ and he’s phenomenal. We trusted him. We’ve fulfilled our objective of coming here to play every game and now we’re going to the final.”
Martinez, who may not even have started at the Copa America had River Plate goalkeeper Franco Armani not tested positive for Covid-19, said there was no stopping Argentina now.
“We’ve spent 40 days locked away, not seeing anyone outside our bubble,” he said later. “We said on the first day we want to get to the final and what better than to play Brazil at their home. Brazil have a great team but we have the best in the world and we’re going there to win.”
Both sides had chances to win in an intense, end-to-end match punctuated by 46 fouls and 10 yellow cards.
Argentina are seeking to win their first major international title since lifting the Copa America in 1993, and once again Messi was the star man, notching up his fifth assist of the tournament to add to his four goals.
Taking a superb pass from Giovani Lo Celso after six minutes, Messi rolled the ball to Lautaro Martinez to fire home a low shot and give Argentina the lead.
Colombia found their feet soon after and hit the woodwork twice in a minute towards the end of the first half when Wilmar Barrio’s deflected shot struck the post and then Mina watched his header hit the bar from the resulting corner.
Their equaliser came on the hour mark when Luis Diaz finished from a tight angle to complete a surprise counter attack.