How Martinez reached the World Cup final
Manchester United’s Argentinian centre-back Lisandro Martinez has made it to his first-ever World Cup final.
Lionel Scaloni’s side are set to face reigning world champions France in Sunday’s showpiece at the Lusail Stadium in Qatar, after overcoming Croatia in the semis on Tuesday.
Argentina were tipped by many as one of the favourites for this year’s competition in the Middle-East, and despite suffering an initial setback, La Albiceleste – fuelled by the brilliance of Lionel Messi – have improved with every game and are now just one win away from lifting the trophy for the third time.
As we prepare for Sunday’s finale, where Martinez will meet United team-mate Raphael Varane, we are revisiting the Argentinian centre-back’s 2022 World Cup journey…
World Cup final: Clash of the RedsArticle
Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane will lock horns in Sunday’s showpiece fixture.
ARGENTINA 1 SAUDI ARABIA 2 (GROUP C)
One of the biggest upsets in World Cup history saw Martinez’s nation start their time in Qatar in the worst possible way.
Scaloni’s side went into the fixture against Saudi Arabia on the back of an incredible 36-game unbeaten run, and it all seemed to be going to script when the South Americans went in at half-time with a 1-0 lead courtesy of a penalty from Messi.
However, few would have predicted what happened after the break, as goals from Saleh Al Shehri and Salem Al Dawsari turned the game on its head, giving the Green Falcons a historic win.
Lisandro joined the fray as a second-half substitute on 59 minutes, by which point Argentina already trailed, but he couldn’t help his side turn the tide.
ARGENTINA 2 MEXICO 0 (GROUP C)
Martinez replaced Spurs’ Cristian Romero alongside Nicolas Otamendi at the heart of Argentina’s defence in the second group-stage match against Mexico, and earned a vital clean sheet as Scaloni’s side recorded a vital 2-0 win.
Our centre-back played the entirety of the match and dealt well with Mexico’s threat, as brilliant second-half goals from Messi and Enzo Fernandez ensured the two-time winners bounced back from the Saudi Arabia defeat and kickstarted their World Cup campaign.
POLAND 0 ARGENTINA 2 (GROUP C)
Lisandro was replaced by Romero for the final Group C fixture, with Argentina once again striking twice in the second half to seal a 2-0 win.
Despite Wojciech Szczesny saving Messi’s penalty in the first half, strikes from Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister and Manchester City’s Julian Alvarez helped Scaloni’s side top their group.
ARGENTINA 2 AUSTRALIA 1 (ROUND OF 16)
The round of 16 saw Argentina come up against Australia, who had fought well to get out of Group D alongside France – eliminating Tunisia and Denmark in the process.
But despite the threat the Socceroos posed, it was business as usual for Messi and Alvarez, who both notched once again – Messi in the first half and Alvarez in the second - to put Scaloni’s side firmly in the driving seat.
A late Fernandez own goal on 77 minutes set up a shaky finale to the match, but Martinez, who was introduced in the 50th minute, played an instrumental role in preserving Argentina’s lead.
Late on, Australia left-back Aziz Behich looked certain to score when he broke through on goal, but Licha denied him with a superb goal-saving sliding challenge to make sure Argentina avoided extra-time and progressed to the last eight.
NETHERLANDS 2 ARGENTINA 2* (QUARTER-FINALS)
Lisandro started this feisty fixture, as Scaloni opted to match the Netherlands’ back-five formation. On the left side of the three centre-backs, Martinez played 112 minutes before being replaced by former United midfielder Angel Di Maria, just before the shootout.
Nahuel Molina and Messi gave Argentina a two-goal lead with less than 10 minutes to play, but substitute Wout Weghorst scored twice late on – including a remarkably worked free-kick in the 11th minute of added time – to bring the Oranje level and forced extra time. Argentina triumphed in the shootout, and after the match Martinez gave an emotional interview.
“It was just incredible,” he said, with tears in his eyes. “I want to hug everyone the players, the coaching staff... everyone!
“My beginning was really hard, but I think now of my mum, my father, my girlfriend, my sisters. And this result is also for my grandmother and grandfather, they are not with me now, but I always feel that love."
🎙️ Lisandro Martinez: “It was just incredible.”— Football Tweet ⚽ (@Football__Tweet) December 9, 2022
“I just freed [when Lautaro scored], because we didn’t deserve to end like that. We were much better than them.”
“I want to hug everyone the players, the coaching staff.. everyone.”#ARG | #FIFAWorldCup pic.twitter.com/awect89J3H
ARGENTINA 3 CROATIA 0 (SEMI-FINALS)
Martinez did not start Argentina’s 3-0 semi-final win over Croatia, but again he came on in the second half and had the desired impact, helping Scaloni’s side see out the win, and the clean sheet. Messi and Alvarez were again the difference-makers in attacking areas for Argentina, with Messi scoring first-half penalty before Alvarez made it 2-0 before the break.
In the second period, a mazy run from Messi created a golden opportunity for Alvarez to slot home his second and Argentina’s third of the night, booking them a place in Sunday’s final. Martinez faces a clash against reigning world champions France – featuring fellow United defender Varane - at the Lusail Stadium, with the action taking place at 15:00 GMT on Sunday.