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'Dibu' Martinez rescues Argentina in shootout as Lionel Messi and company advance to Copa America semifinals




Thanks to Emiliano "Dibu" Martinez in goal, Argentina are through to the Copa America semifinals after beating Ecuador on Thursday in the quarterfinals in penalty kicks, 4-2. Martinez, a shot-stopping specialist in shootouts, saved the first two he faced as Nicolas Otamendi scored the clinching kick. Lionel Messi took Argentina's first kick but hit the crossbar with a cheeky chip. 

The match finished at 1-1 as Lisandro Martinez scored the opener with Ecuador getting a goal from Kevin Rodriguez in added time. The World Cup champions weren't at their sharpest but looked to have done enough in a physical contest as Enner Valencia missed a second-half penalty kick for the underdogs, hitting the left post with his low effort.

Martinez's goal came in the 35th minute where he did well to head home on a designed corner kick. Messi delivered a tight ball to the front post where Alexis Mac Allister flicked on to a wide-open back post, allowing the Manchester United defender to head home with relative ease. Take a look:

Ecuador had a golden look in each half with their chance in the first being denied from close range by Martinez in goal, but Rodriguez was able to head home late to force penalty kicks.

In the shootout, the Argentina goalkeeper did his thing while his teaMMAtes converted their final four attempts to move on. 

Argentina, favorites to win the Copa America, are now just 90 minutes from potentially making it to their third straight major final. Messi and company advanced to the 2021 Copa America final and beat Brazil in their home, ending a title drought that dated back to 1993. Then Argentina advanced to the 2022 World Cup final, ending a 36-year drought in the comPetition to beat France for their third world title, providing Messi the biggest prize in the sport, the only thing that was missing from his resume. 

With the win, Argentina will play on Tuesday against the winner of Friday night's quarterfinal between Canada and Venezuela. La Albiceleste enter as heavy favorites, as expected. Argentina beat Canada 2-0 in the Copa America opener. Venezuela, typically one of the teams that struggle the most in South America, have been the surprise of the tournament by starting 3-0-0 and playing a big role in Mexico's group-stage elimination, beating El Tri 1-0.