Another limp performance but another victory thanks to a rare moment of quality mean Argentina are in the Quarter Finals of the World Cup. Once again, Alejandro Sabella’s side were frustrated and stifled by a defensive side and with two minutes of extra time remaining, Lionel Messi broke at speed and teed up Ángel Di María to calmly stroke the ball past Diego Benaglio and shatter Swiss dreams.
For the fourth time at the World Cup, Argentina came up against an opponent willing to allow La Albiceleste possession and with the strategy of crowding out Messi and his teammates in the final third. For the fourth time, not only was this successful in limiting Argentina to few chances but Switzerland created chances of their own on the break.
During a first half in which Argentina saw most of the possession it was Switzerland who perhaps could have been two ahead. Granit Xhaka saw his shot blocked by Sergio Romero and later Josip Drmic tamely chipped the ball into the hands of Romero when clean through.
Argentina showed a little more urgency after the break but still struggled to carve out many meaningful opportunities. Messi was at the centre of all that Argentina attempted, coming close himself on one occasion but also creating 8 chances during the match (the most by a player at this World Cup).
Extra time followed and still neither side could find a way through and with two minutes remaining, Argentina managed to win the ball back on half way and for almost the first time run at Switzerland at speed. Messi drove through the centre before laying the ball to his right where Ángel Di María arrived to pass the ball into the net.
There was still time for Blerim Dzemaili to plant a header against the foot of the post and then poke the rebound wide and in the final action of the game, Xherdan Shakiri blasted a free kick into the wall.
Argentina did just enough to see off their European opponents and will now face either Belgium or the USA on Saturday but will again need to improve if they are to progress any further.
Argentina 1 – 0 Switzerland (AET)