Emiliano Martinez saved three penalties guide La Albiceleste to the final of Copa America 2021.
After an intense 90 minutes, Emiliano Martinez inspired Argentina to beat Colombia in penalty shootouts in the semifinals of Copa America 2021. Both sides played out a 1-1 draw in regulation time, courtesy of goals from Lautaro Martinez and Luis Diaz. Following the emphatic win, Argentina will face arch-rivals Brazil in the final on Saturday.
However, there were plenty of talking points from the clash. Despite being all square for the 90 minutes, both Argentina and Colombia displayed some interesting traits that were canceled out.
Here are five key highlights from the match as Argentina beat Colombia to reach Copa America final.
5. Colombia’s high pressing strategy
Despite playing with a relatively defensive 4-4-2 setup, Colombia looked lively by pressing Argentina higher up the pitch. After trailing early, they made Argentina uncomfortable for the most part. As a result of their intense pressure, Reinaldo Rueda’s side enjoyed more possession and registered more shots on goal than the Albiceleste in the first half.
The Argentinian defence, in its attempt to play out from the back, was largely disturbed by this trait. As a result, more throw-ins, corner kicks and shots were conceded in quick succession. Similarly, Argentina also chose to sit back and defend, which eventually led to Colombia’s equalizer.
4. Giovanni Lo Celso: Argentina’s creator in midfield
For years now, the burden of creating goals from the middle has always been on Lionel Messi for Argentina. However, recent performances and the semifinal have put Giovanni Lo Celso as someone who shares that responsibility with Messi.
The 25-year-old made line-breaking forward passes and he justified Scaloni’s trust in deploying him as a progressive passer. Argentina’s intentions of making the most out of his role were apparent, as they tried to get the runners moving whenever Lo Celso was on the ball.
It was the Tottenham midfielder’s pass that beat multiple lines to find Messi, who set up an easy one for Martinez to open the scoring for Argentina. Messi’s fifth assist of the tournament and Martinez’s third goal in as many consecutive matches came at the execution of this move.
3. Luis Diaz: Colombia’s progressor
For the most part of the match, the Argentinian defense had a hard time defending against Colombia’s Luis Diaz. Although Juventus’ Juan Cuadrado is more looked at, Diaz was the star from wide areas throughout the match.
The FC Porto winger, starting from the left side of midfield, was a livewire whenever he received the ball. Colombia’s attempts to get on the final third, whether it was through counterattacks or winning the ball after counter-pressing, went through his runs.
The 24-year-old winger made 11 successful dribbles on course and was also involved in winning 20 ground duels, out of 27. Diaz’s wide role, combined with Colombia’s intent to press high were instrumental in him scoring the equalizer.
2. A display of intense physicality
When Lionel Scaloni started Guido Rodriguez instead of Leandro Paredes in midfield, his intent of tacking Colombia’s physicality was apparent. With forwards that are strong on the ball and aerially superior center-backs, Columbia brought things down to the wire against Argentina.
As a result, the Albiceleste bore the consequences. From playing long balls, utilizing the power up front, to tacking more often, Colombia looked sure about utilizing what was at their depository. 47 tackles were committed during the match, as both the sides looked to add more players on the line in both attack and defense.
1. Emiliano Martinez’s penalty heroics
Going into the penalty shootout after it ended 1-1 in regulation time, shot-stopper Emiliano Martinez thrived between the sticks for La Albiceleste. Saving three out of five kicks that he faced, the Aston Villa goalkeeper looked more confident than ever in the high octane moments.
The 28-year-old chose the right side during the the first kick, but failed to save. Facing the second one, Martinez neutralized Rodrigo De Paul’s miss by saving Yerry Mina’s penalty, diving towards his right.
The shot-stopper went on to save two of the last three Colombian penalties. With Colombia taking the first kick, the former Arsenal goalkeeper made sure Argentina won it before completing their five chances.