The spotlight will be on Emiliano Martinez and his penalty saves in the final against France and the quarterfinal against Netherlands which won him the golden glove at the Qatar World Cup. Amidst all that, two of his other interventions — both coming in the dying moments of a knockout game, preserving the scoreline — will be remembered for a long time.
The first came in the round-of-16 clash against Australia when he scampered out of his line to smother a shot from Garang Kuol to protect his side’s lead. The second was an even more significant one, coming in the final. France came back from the dead, flying on the wings of a Kylian Mbappe hat-trick to level the score at 3-3.
In the injury time of the 30-minute extra-time, French substitute Randal Kolo Muani found himself with the ball inside the Argentine box without a defender in sight. His shot was destined to end in the back of the net to ensure a dramatic win for France, only for Martinez to make himself as wide as the Andes mountain range to push the ball away with his left boot. The equilibrium was maintained and the stage was set for him to replicate his penalty heroics from the quarterfinals.
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His first victim was Kingsley Coman, who had earlier reeled the game back in for France. Next up was Aurelien Tchouameni, and he too couldn’t put the ball past Martinez, who by then had acquired an aura of infallibility, aided by his audacious dance moves.
Earlier in the tournament, it was the Dutch who bowed to the Argentine penalty-killer, with Virgil Van Djik and Steven Berghuis the scalps for the 6ft 3in keeper. No goalkeeper has made more saves in FIFA World Cup shootouts than the 30-year-old Martinez. He shares the top spot with four saves, alongside Croatia’s Danijel Subasic and Dominik Livakovic, Argentina’s Sergio Goycochea and Germany’s Harald Schumacher.
Last year, when asked about Lionel Messi, Martinez said, “I want to give him my life, I want to die for him.”
In Qatar 2022, Martinez gifted his living idol something even better — a FIFA World Cup — to provide the most dazzling jewel in Messi’s luminous crown.