Lionel Messi: "Diego Maradona is watching us from heaven"

Lionel Messi of Argentina attends the post match press conference after the penalty shootout win during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 quarter final match between Netherlands and Argentina at Lusail Stadium on December 09, 2022 in Lusail City, Qatar.
(Image credit: Maddie Meyer - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Lionel Messi hopes that Argentina made Diego Maradona proud by reaching the World Cup semi-finals – two years after the legend's passing.

Messi set up Nahuel Molina's opener and scored himself from the spot in a man-of-the-match performance against the Netherlands, although a Dutch comeback meant that the Albiceleste needed a penalty shoot-out to secure their passage into the last four. 

"It was a very hard match," Messi admitted in the post-match press conference. "When Lautaro Martinez scored the last penalty, there was a huge joy, a weight off our chest, because we suffered – we could have been out after being 2-0 up.

Lionel Messi of Argentina poses with the Budweiser Player of the Match Trophy following the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 quarter final match between Netherlands and Argentina at Lusail Stadium on December 09, 2022 in Lusail City, Qatar.

(Image credit: Oliver Hardt - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

"We are really happy, people in Argentina are really excited now, because we're in the last four. Diego is watching us from heaven, he's pushing us, and I hope it stays that way until the end."

Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni paid tribute to his star man, as his side set up a semi-final against Croatia on Tuesday.

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"Leo was a very important player - he showed that he's the best of all time, we're happy that he's on our side," Scaloni said.

"The game was very difficult for us, especially in the second half. When you think everything is over, you are surprised, but this team has experience, pride, young players and we want to fight.

"We've had many acid tests, we've shown our personality, for example against Mexico, but we fought until the end. The team spirit is crucial.

"The game was heated, but now we're dancing, and we need to keep on dancing. We want to take the next step, with the utmost respect for Croatia."

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Chris Flanagan
Staff Writer

Chris joined FourFourTwo in 2015 and has reported from 20 countries, in places as varied as Jerusalem and the Arctic Circle. He's interviewed Pele, Zlatan and Santa Claus (it's a long story), as well as covering Euro 2020 and the Clasico. He previously spent 10 years as a newspaper journalist, and completed the 92 in 2017.