Lionel Scaloni praised the “beautiful” victory of his Argentinian team on penalties against the Netherlands but admitted his team had been dragged into a “nasty game” by a Dutch side who surprised him with their aggression.
The coach’s comments came after an exciting but extraordinarily moody game which featured a red card and 16 yellows – including two in a penalty shootout in which Dutch player Denzel Dumfries was sent off for provoking opponents. After Argentina triumphed 4-3 on penalties, following a 2-2 draw, their players then pushed on the Dutch while Lionel Messi also exchanged words with Louis van Gaal and his assistant Edgar Davids.
“The game was hot,” Scaloni said. “But it was a quarter-final. And what happens on the pitch stays on the pitch. Of course we had 11 men. Leo [Messi] was a very important player and he showed he was the best ever and we are happy to have him on our side.
Argentinian Leandro Paredes was also lucky to receive only a yellow card not only for a bad foul on Nathan Aké, but also for then smashing the ball on the Dutch bench, which sparked a pushed game between the two teams.
But Scaloni suggested that it was the Netherlands who had been the instigators. When asked if they played in an anti-football way, he replied: “They played in a way that I didn’t expect from them. But each team, each coach, decides how to play. I won’t talk about their football philosophy but in truth, in the second half it was a lousy game.
“We had no luck and it was frequently interrupted but they are allowed to play as they wish.”
Messi was the player of the game, setting up the first, netting Argentina’s second from the spot and then – for good measure – giving them the penalty spot lead. But he admitted his side suffered after squandering a 2-0 lead with Dutch striker Wout Weghorst scoring twice in the final seven minutes to force extra time.
“We have suffered too much,” he said. “It was a very difficult match. We experienced it on the pitch for the people. And Diego Maradona sees us from the sky, he pushes us to the end.
However, Messi, who was also booked for arguing with Spanish referee, Antonio Mateu Lahoz, criticized the way the game was officiated. “I felt a lot of anger,” he said. “I don’t want to talk about the referee because after they penalize you, you can’t say what you think because they penalize you. Fifa needs to review this.
Argentina are now favorites to win their third world Cup but Messi refuses to get carried away.
“Croatia are a very tough opponent,” he added. “They have great players, they know each other very well. They have had the same coach since the last World Cup and it’s a World Cup semi-final, it’s going to be tough.