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Messi the hero as playmaker and Di Maria’s extra time goal beats Swiss

Jul 1, 2014, 2:35 PM EDT

Josip Drmic, Marcos Rojo AP

After 117 minutes of scoreless soccer, Lionel Messi fed Angel Di Maria, who scored the goal that made the Arena Sao Paolo erupt.

The goal also pushed Argentina to a 1-0 win over Switzerland and a berth in the World Cup quarterfinals.

Argentina will move on to play the winner of the Belgium and United States game, which kicks off at 4pm ET.

A fun, back-and-forth first half between Switzerland and Argentina gave way to a tentative, defensive second as the two sides searched for the goal that could lead them into the quarterfinals.

Swiss coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said on Monday that his team would show the way to stop Lionel Messi, and they punished the diminutive superstar with hard tackles and physical play. Messi’s chances were limited, and his team was frustrated.

Hitzfeld was presumably coaching with a heavy heart, as his brother passed away from leukemia hours before the match.

Meanwhile, first half counterattacks probably should’ve lead to goal for the underdogs. Granit Xhaka‘s point-blank shot was saved by the foot of Argentine keeper Sergio Romero, while Josep Drmic’s cheeky chip didn’t get the height to soar above the keeper.

Here’s what we were saying at halftime.

In the second half, the chances were lesser. Marcos Rojo‘s splendid cross was headed on target by Gonzalo Higuain, but Benaglio was able to tip it over the bar.

Benaglio made a diving stop on Messi in the 77th minute, able to get his right arm on the ball and thwart the shot.

And it was Messi magic again in the 89th minute, as his slaloming run ended with a pass for Palacio that was received poorly and skidded away from danger.

Extra time it would be. Of course.

The first period of extra time did not provide a wealth of prime chances, as the teams continued to beat each other about with hard fouls.

The second featured an early rip by Di Maria that Benaglio pushed over the goal, as Switzerland’s continued attention to Messi opened up some lanes for the Argentines.

With Argentina controlling possession and attack, it felt they were only team that could tally before kicks… and Messi found Di Maria for the goal.

Dzemaili headed a cross off the post in the 121nd minute before pushing the rebound wide with an off-balance touch. That was it for the Swiss.

LINEUPS

Argentina: Romero; Zabaleta, Fede Fernández, Garay, Rojo (Basanta, 105′); Gago (Biglia, 105′), Mascherano, Di María; Lavezzi (Palacio, 73′), Messi, Higuaín

Goals: Di Maria (117′)

Switzerland: Benaglio; Lichtsteiner, Djourou, Schaer, Rodriquez; Shaqiri,  Inler,  Xhaka (Fernandes, 64′), Behrami, Mehmedi (Dzemaili, 112′); Drmic (Seferovic, 81′)

  1. txbearmeat - Jul 1, 2014 at 3:02 PM

    Why did it have to be Di Maria that scored? That guy is a whiner and a diver.

  2. footballer4ever - Jul 1, 2014 at 4:07 PM

    Once a balanced and stronger football team faces Argenrina who can frustrate and neutralize Messi, there is. noone out there. Argentina looks mundane and impressive considering the footballers quality stacked on the National Football Team

  3. seanb20124 - Jul 1, 2014 at 4:09 PM

    We want Argentina!!!

  4. misterdreamer119 - Jul 1, 2014 at 8:40 PM

    The Swiss defended really well and the keeper was lights out. Argentina attacked well at times. The goal and 2 excellent individual play s shown through at the end.

  5. dfstell - Jul 1, 2014 at 9:49 PM

    I agree that the pass and finish were really nice, but the other thing that got me was Messi’s touch to control the ball in the first place. I mean…..the original pass to him was really hard – too hard. And out in front. And he just kinda sticks his boot out there and the ball goes from being FIRED at him from the flank to rolling nicely in the direction of the goal 4-5 feet in front of him. So many players don’t even get a chance to make that run (much less the pass) because their first touch on that hard pass would have bounced the ball right to a defender OR they would have had to control it for a second and been unable to begin the run. He always has that great touch to receive the ball and there’s always a lovely touch right before he passes. If you put the ball on the ground with your hands, you could do as well as he does with his feet.

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