‘Stop bullying Messi!’ Argentina coach defends captain after missing penalty shootout

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Lionel Scaloni, the head coach of Argentina’s national soccer team, embraced Lionel Messi (Inter Miami) after he missed the penalty shootout.

“Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni warned his team not to dwell on Lionel Messi’s missed penalty kick after beating Ecuador to advance to the Copa America semifinals,” global media outlet ESPN reported on May 5 (Korea time).

Argentina advanced to the semifinals of the Confederation of South American Football (CONMEBOL) Copa America 2024 with a penalty shootout victory over Ecuador on Friday at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, USA.

Argentina opened the scoring in the 35th minute off a set piece. Off a corner kick, Lisandro Martinez cut back and headed the loose ball into the back of the net to rattle the Ecuadorian net.

After conceding an early goal to Argentina, Ecuador had a chance to equalize in the 14th minute of the second half when they were awarded a penalty kick, but kicker Enner Valencia missed a golden opportunity when he hit the post.

With Argentina holding onto their one-goal lead until the end of second-half regulation time, Ecuador scored a dramatic equalizer in second-half stoppage time. Kevin Rodriguez headed a cross from the right flank into the back of the Argentine net to tie the game at one.

The dramatic equalizer in late stoppage time sent the match into penalty kicks with the score tied at 1-1. In this year’s tournament, if the third- and fourth-place matches are not settled in regulation time, they will go straight to penalty kicks with no extra time.

The penalty shootout started with Argentina in the lead, but Messi, who was the first kicker, surprised fans by missing the penalty.

Messi opted for a “panenka kick,” which is a flick of the ball toward the center of the goal. The goalkeeper had already thrown himself out of the way, so the kick would have gone in, but it hit the top of the post and failed to rattle the Ecuadorian net.

Messi missed the penalty and the momentum shifted in Ecuador’s favor, but goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez kept the momentum in Argentina’s favor. In the penalty shootout, Martinez was outstanding, saving the first and second shots from Ecuador’s four kickers.

While Martinez was making exciting saves, Argentina’s kickers two through five were all on target, resulting in a 4-2 victory on penalties to punch their ticket to the semifinals.

After the game, Scaloni was quick to defend Messi for missing the penalty. “Messi played like the rest of his teammates, we are a team,” he said in the post-match press conference, according to the media, “If the team played well, Messi played well. We have never separated the individual from the collective.”

Some reporters have asked if the injury affected Messi’s performance against Ecuador. Messi admitted to playing with discomfort in his right hamstring 19가이드 during the second group game against Chile, and he was eventually rested after missing the third game against Peru.

Messi started and played the full time against Ecuador, but his performance was unimpressive. According to the media, Messi had 32 touches on the day, with only one touch in the box, and he also missed the penalty shootout.

When asked if there were any lingering effects of the injury, Scaloni said: “No, not really. “Messi had a good game today, and Ecuador planned a system where two defenders came to attack when we had the ball,” he said. “He finished the game well. I asked him with five or six minutes left before the end and he said he was feeling good.”

Argentina, who advanced to the quarterfinals in dramatic fashion, will play the winner of the Venezuela-Canada match in the semifinals at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, USA, on June 10 at 9:00 a.m.

Defending champions Argentina are back in the hunt for a second consecutive Copa America title. Argentine fans are especially excited because this will be Messi’s last Copa America, as the 37-year-old forward is expected to play in his final tournament,

Argentina will need their captain and legend to perform if they are to return to the top of the tournament. However, Messi got off to a flying start, scoring an assist in a 2-0 win over Canada in the first round of group play, but hasn’t been at his best since due to injury.

“I spent the last week trying to get rid of the discomfort and pain, I was a bit scared, but I had a week where I trained little by little and got better and better,” Messi said, adding, “I felt better in the last training session and I thought I could play.” He focused on his recovery in the run-up to the game.

All eyes will be on Messi, who missed in the penalty shootout but reached the last four of the tournament with the help of Martinez in goal, to see if he can redeem himself with an attacking point in the next game and lead his country to another final.

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