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Lionel Messi misses penalty but Argentina still reaches Copa América semifinals

<i>Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Lionel Messi missed his penalty in the shootout.
Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images via CNN Newsource
Lionel Messi missed his penalty in the shootout.

By Matias Grez, CNN

(CNN) — Goalkeeper Emi Martínez was the hero for Argentina as La Albiceleste reached the Copa América semifinals with a 4-2 penalty shootout win over Ecuador following a 1-1 draw.

Argentina led for most of the match in Houston, Texas, after Manchester United defender Lisandro Martínez headed home from a corner on 35 minutes.

But Ecuador found an equalizer in stoppage time when Kevin Rodríguez glanced his header into the bottom corner from John Yeboah’s whipped cross.

La Tri then had a glorious chance to win the match just minutes later, but Jordy Caicedo put his header wide of the post from just six yards out.

With no extra time, the match went straight to penalties and Lionel Messi missed with the first attempt of the shootout, his Panenka effort hitting the top of the crossbar.

However, Martínez saved Ecuador’s next two penalties from Ángel Mena and Alan Minda as Argentina scored its next four to spare Messi’s blushes and book a place in the semifinals, where the team will face the winner of Friday’s quarterfinal between Venezuela and Canada.

Martínez, who has developed a reputation as a penalty shootout specialist, performed his trademark dance after brilliantly keeping out Minda’s spot kick.

The Aston Villa goalkeeper has faced 24 penalties for Argentina and has conceded just 12 of them, including nine saves, per the BBC.

“I work to do this,” Martínez said after the game, per the Argentina Football Association. “I dive 500 times per training session. We always have to give our best, the people deserve it.

“They made things very difficult for us. They played a great game, very physical. We knew they were going to be one of the toughest rivals in the cup, but I wasn’t ready to go home. This group deserved to continue.

“These are special moments, being with our people, [a stadium] full of Argentines. We didn’t play the game that the people wanted to see, but luckily, we won.”

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