Another round of 16 match and yet another close encounter. Argentina and Switzerland duked it out at Sao Paulo and it took a late, late and I mean so late that I missed the last bus to the next town goal from Angel Di Maria to decide the contest. Switzerland, to their credit did really well to keep the Argentine team at bay, it obviously helped that Argentina did not play to their potential and were quite average throughout the game. Lionel Messi was, as usual, the center of attention and the “Alpine Messi”, Xherdan Shaqiri was the other player on whom the spotlight shone, and ultimately it was the original Messi who came up trumps.
Here are the 5 talking points from the game
The last hurrah for Hitzfeld:
This was Hitzfeld’s last tournament as he had announced his retirement from management prior to the World Cup starting. Hitzfeld had led the Swiss to consecutive World Cup appearances and was very successful in his previous stint with Bayern Munich. Credit must be given to Hitzfeld for making the Swiss team formidable, they are currently ranked 6th in the World. The base for a good future has already been built thanks to Hitzfeld, with Petkovic taking over, let’s hope he continues the good work done by the Hitz.
The Swiss almost got it done:
This World cup will certainly be etched in a lot of people’s memories; late goals have been scored like rain falling in Britain. The Swiss were the latest victims of heartbreak when Angel Di Maria scored in the 118th minute of extra time. The Swiss had done really well to keep the shackles on Lionel Messi and co throughout the game. They played a fast, counter attack based game and were causing quite a few problems to the Argentine defense, it was a mistake in the midfield by Juventus defender Lichsteiner which gave Messi the chance to run and pass to Di Maria who made no mistake. Dzemaili had a last minute header come off the post and then off him as the Swiss were that close to taking it to penalties. Bad luck for the Swiss, good luck for the Argentinians.
No Messi, No Argentina:
The parallels between Messi’s Argentina and Maradona’s Argentina from 1986 are eerie. It was Maradona who seemed to single handedly (Goals against England) take Argentina from a mediocre team to a World Cup winning team and it seems Messi is doing the same. None of the other players seemed to turn up against Switzerland and their dependence on Messi showed with him having to take the reins for almost every attack. Plus, they were really lucky when Dzemaili’s header came off the post in the last minute of extra time.
Football isn’t just a sport of skill, there is a bit of luck involved as well. I have constantly pointed out that luck is also a factor that is required on your side if you want to win the World Cup. Argentina was surely lucky not to concede in the last minute when it was harder to miss than to score. The fates may have already spoken as to who would be playing in the final. It seems that Brazil and Argentina are to meet head on in the final even if they do not play their best football.
No easy games in the round of 16:
None of the matches in the last 16, barring the Colombia vs. Uruguay and France vs. Nigeria matches, has been won by more than a solitary goal. In fact 3 of the 7 games went into extra time with Brazil, Germany and Costa Rica winning. This fixture gets added to that list and just proves how difficult games actually are in the World Cup. This was just another match where two even teams slugged it out to decide who comes out on top and ultimately Argentina did, just about.