Emi Martinez: Penalty King

by Ben Ayuko

{image by Getty Images}

Goalkeeper Emi Martinez saved 2 penalties in the Copa América quarter final shootout between Argentina and Ecuador to guarantee safe passage for Argentina through to the semi-finals. This wasn’t the first he has done this for Argentina as many will remember his heroics in the World Cup final that granted Argentina access to holy grail of the footballing world. Although he only saved on of the 4 penalties he faced, he guessed the right direction for them all. That is to say, the 2 that entered had to be expertly taken to beat him. One could easily conclude the one that missed the target was as a result of trying to be an expertly taken one.

That wasn’t even his first shoot out of that tournament, as Argentina had squared up against the Netherlands in the quarter finals, needing a penalty shoot-out to determine the winner. He saved the first 2 penalties in that one to help Argentina through to the semi-finals.

Not so long after, he was involved in the Conference League quarter final shootout, this time for club side Aston Villa as they played Lille. in France. Where he was now considered a villain for his antics at the World Cup. He was ever the same character, saving 2 penalties and helping his team advance through to the semi-finals. And now again vs Ecuador.

Emi Martinez has slowly developed a reputation for being somewhat of a penalty expert, with his antics and dances having a double effect of energizing his own team/fans while demoralizing the opponent. in an interview with Ian Wright, he described his approach to penalty situations as, * “I Create Chaos…to make it difficult” This is very noticeable in the Copa América 2021. The stadium was empty during the shoot-out between Argentina and Colombia and because of this, it was very easy to hear just how much Martinez does to put off his opponent. Constantly moving on the goal line. Constantly shouting at the penalty kicker, trying to get in his head. And the big celebration he does after every kick almost to show just how much he is thriving in such a tense situation. In this scenario, he made 3 saves in the shoot-out to send Argentina through to the final where they would win the lot, his first taste of success in football.

Now, obviously we have seen goalkeepers who completely shut down the occasion before, Portugal’s Diogo Costa a recent example (saving 3 penalties in the round of 16 of the European Championships 2024) and South Africa’s Ronwen Williams, saving a staggering 4 penalties in the Africa Cup of Nations 2024 quarter finals to help his country through to the next round. And as impressive as Williams and Costa were in their respective shoot outs, it’s the sheer volume and consistency of Emi Martinez on the grandest of stages that sets him apart from the rest.

I mean, he is, as of yet, yet to lose a penalty shoot-out.


* I CREATE CHAOS! Emi Martinez reveals his penalty secrets | Behind The Game ft. Oriana Sabatini (

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