Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni praised his side for “facing every situation” after watching them come through a penalty shoot-out to see off the Netherlands and secure a place in the World Cup semi-finals.
Scaloni’s men squandered a 2-0 lead handed to them by a Nahuel Molina strike and a Lionel Messi penalty with two late efforts from Dutch substitute Wout Weghorst sending the match to extra-time and beyond.
Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez saved the Netherlands’ first two spot-kicks, from Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghuis, before Lautaro Martinez slotted home the winning kick to send Argentina through to a last four clash with Croatia.
Scaloni said: “Argentina have team spirit because we know how to face every situation in the game.
“It’s true we did not deserve to go to a penalty shoot-out but we fought to the end because the Dutch caused trouble for us.
“It was a strange second half. When you think everything is over and then it is not you are surprised.
“This team has pride, experience as well as young players, and this is key as we want to fight.”
No me pidas que no vuelva intentar
— Selección Argentina (@Argentina)
The match boiled over on several occasions with Spanish official Antonio Mateu Lahoz setting a World Cup record by issuing 15 cards, 14 yellows and one red – to Denzel Dumfries after the shoot-out – to overtake the previous record of 14, set in 2002 between Cameroon and Germany.
He also seemed to lose control on a couple of occasions with both benches involved in pushing and shoving in the second half of normal time and again after 90 minutes.
Scaloni said: “I don’t want to talk about the referee, I have a very good relationship with him and luckily everything turned out well.
“The game was heated, this was a quarter-final, it happens. It stays on the pitch but we had 11 men out there.”
Asked if he was surprised at the Netherlands’ approach late on of tossing long balls towards Weghorst and fellow substitute Luuk De Jong, Scaloni refused to comment.
He said: “I won’t enter this debate. They played in a way I didn’t expect but they were almost out of the World Cup, each coach works out how they want to play.
“I won’t talk about their philosophy, I am no-one to judge how they played.”
Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal now enters retirement having taken charge of the Dutch for a third and final time.
The 71-year-old has been heavily criticised by the country’s media for his playing style during the World Cup but insists he bows out with his head held high.
He said: “There’s nothing to reproach myself for. The boys fought until the bitter end and now they are in the dressing room feeling despondent. They gave everything, I am incredibly proud.
“I had a wonderful time. It’s incredibly painful to go out like this, especially as I did everything I could to prevent this from happening.
“What I am leaving is an excellent group, as people and footballers. I was the coach for 20 games and we didn’t lose any of them. There is a reason for that.”