Emi Martinez shares what he did before saving Van Dijk's penalty at the World Cup
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Emi Martinez shares what he did before saving Van Dijk's penalty at the World Cup

Argentina goalkeeper Emi Martinez has shared the process of saving a penalty from Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk at the World Cup last year.

Van Dijk took the first spot-kick during the Netherlands’ shootout loss against Argentina in the quarter-final in Qatar. Unfortunately for the Liverpool man, Martinez was equal to his kick, diving right to get his country off to the perfect start.

During the ensuing shootout, and the one which won them the final, Martinez became known for his distraction techniques. From throwing the ball away to dancing in the opposition’s faces, the Aston Villa man disgraced himself several times over. But speaking to Goal about the topic, the Aston Villa man says he didn’t try it with Virgil.

“You can’t do it for everyone. You have to see the moment,” said Martinez. “If you look at Mbappe, he scored three penalties in the final and I didn’t say anything. [Virgil] Van Dijk, I didn’t say anything and I saved it.

“But when I see a little bit of fear, or when the player knows that if they miss they are out, or a miss gives us an 80 percent chance of winning, that’s when the chaos starts! I start whipping the crowd, I start doing what I do.”

Martinez looks back on penalty heroics

This is an interesting admission from Martinez. It does actually show that despite his relentless, stomach-churning gamesmanship, he does put a great deal of thought into what he’s doing.

That the ‘keeper didn’t try his tricks with the likes of Mbappe and Van Dijk proves that he’s aware of the mentality of such players.

Photo by Liu Lu/VCG via Getty Images

It’s true that Virgil missed his spot-kick still, but that can happen. The centre-back is hardly experienced when it comes to penalties and it wasn’t a great strike. But Martinez knew that if he did manage to save it, it wouldn’t be because of any cheap mind games.

The irony is that perhaps if he had tried something on for size, Liverpool’s No.4 might well have buried the kick.

We saw something similar during last year’s Carabao Cup final. With Kepa showing Van Dijk one full side of the goal to aim out, he was obviously doing his best to psyche the Dutchman out. But Virgil wouldn’t bow, smashing his penalty past the same side the Chelsea goalie was guarding in ice-cool fashion.

Had Martinez attempted a similar ploy in Qatar, maybe Van Dijk would have matched him for it. As it was though, the Argentine thought it better to do nothing. Perhaps it was a mark of respect from a player who appears to have little, but whatever it was, it worked. Whatever you’re opinion of him, you have to credit Martinez for that.

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