Argentina had many heroes on Sunday night at the Lusail Stadium in Doha, none more so than Lionel Messi, whose long-held dream of winning the World Cup came true in his fifth attempt.
When each Argentine player tells their grandchildren about their third World Cup victory, goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez will have every reason to be proud of an incredible night in the Arabian desert.
Even before his heroics in the penalty shootout, where he saved spot-kicks from Kingsley Coman and Aurelien Tchouameni to help Argentina win 4-2 on penalties, he made the save of his life in the dying seconds of extra time.
Randal Kolo Muani broke away in the third minute of added time, with the clock having completed 90 minutes of normal time and 30 minutes of extra time, and found himself one-on-one with the Aston Villa goalkeeper.
It appeared to be the final kick of the game, and a goal would have ended Argentina’s chances of a comeback, but Martinez kept the South Americans in the game by spreading his legs and keeping the target out of sight.
Martinez has done this several times in Qatar over the last month. Remember his heroics in the quarter-finals penalty shootout victory over the Netherlands? He also made two saves in the shootout that night.
Or his save against Australia in the Round of 16 when he similarly spread himself and stretched out his left hand to keep the ball away from the net?
Few would have predicted three years ago that Martinez would become an indispensable part of Argentina’s setup. He attended the 2018 World Cup in Russia as a spectator.
After his first senior call-up as a 19-year-old in 2011, he had to wait eight years for another. From 2012 to 2020, he made sporadic appearances for Arsenal, mostly on loan at unremarkable clubs. But a move to Aston Villa in September 2020 has helped him turn things around.