Argentina captain Lionel Messi has praised former Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez after his penalty shootout heroics in the semi-final against Colombia.

As quoted by Goal, Argentina superstar and captain Lionel Messi has showered teammate Emiliano Martinez with praises after the goalkeeper helped La Albiceleste to a penalty shootout win against Colombia in the Copa America 2021.

Argentina were made to work hard by the Colombians who equalised in the second half through Luis Diaz after Lautaro Martinez had put the former in front in the first period. The game eventually went into a penalty shootout after finishing 1-1. And, it was Emiliano Martinez, who rose to the occasion, to see his country through to the finals.

The former Arsenal goalkeeper, who enjoyed a brilliant 2020/21 season with Aston Villa after having made the switch from the Emirates last year, had not even made his debut for the Argentina national team last month. But, since then he has quickly gone on to cement his place, with his heroics against Colombia on Tuesday proving his worth to the team.

Martinez made three saves during the shootout, stopping efforts from Davinson Sanchez, Yerry Mina and Edwin Cardona, helping Argentina seal a 3-2 win, for whom Messi, Leandro Paredes and Lautaro were on target from the spot. And, speaking in the aftermath of the contest, captain Messi hailed his goalkeeper for his performance during the shootouts.

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“We have Emi, who is a phenomenon. We trusted him. We achieved the goal of being able to play all the games and now we are going to the final,” the Argentina captain said of the former Arsenal star.

There was more praise coming Emi Martinez’s way, with La Albiceleste manager Lionel Scaloni also speaking effusively about the 28-year-old, saying: “We are very happy with Emiliano’s performance, not only because of the penalties, but also because of the security that he is transmitting. The group of defenders is permanently supported and we like that.”

Up next for Argentina in the finals will be arch-rivals Brazil, who earned a hard-fought 1-0 win over Peru in the first semi-final, courtesy of a goal from Lucas Paqueta.

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