Argentinians see off Swiss with late goal
ANGEL Di Maria swooped deep into extra time to give Argentina a 1-0 win over Switzerland in a gripping last-16 tie on Tuesday, as the South Americans booked a spot in the World Cup quarter-finals.
After a tense 0-0 draw at 90 minutes and scoreless first period of extra time, Argentine playmaker Lionel Messi suddenly found a yard of space and released Di Maria, who swept the ball home the first time before wheeling away in delight.
Blerim Dzemaili came within inches of saving Switzerland when his powerful downward header hit the post with goalkeeper Sergio Romero stranded, but Argentina rode their luck to celebrate the win while the Swiss slumped to their knees in despair.
Argentina now face a quarter-final against Belgium, who beat the United States 2-1 on Tuesday.
Di Maria, who had given the ball away far too easily but peppered the Swiss goal with shots, said the entire squad deserved credit for the win. "We gave our lives, our souls," he said. "I think the victory is more than deserved. We need to carry on like this, living our lives on the pitch."
It was a cruel end for Switzerland, who had stretched Argentina early on but lost steam in the later stages. "Football is brutal, brutal, brutal," said assistant coach Michel Pont.
Messi revealed the inner torment his team felt as the game dragged towards a dreaded penalty shootout. "Suffering, suffering, that's what we felt," he said. "We know we will go through times like this. That's football. We had luck on our side. We need to now move on."
Messi was again at the heart of all of Argentina's best work, prompting and prodding in front of the massed Swiss defence.
While Switzerland managed to keep Messi off the scoresheet, coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said he had made the difference. "We know that Messi in one second can decide a match, and he has sufficient qualities for that, but then the pass to Di Maria and then the marvellous shot by Di Maria," said Hitzfeld, who had already announced he was stepping down after the tournament.
But despite camping out in the Swiss half for long sections of the second half, Argentina could not make the breakthrough and the 90 minutes ended scoreless.
Argentina looked the stronger side in extra time when Swiss legs began to tire and, just when it looked like Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson would call for a penalty shootout, Messi scampered clear and picked out Di Maria.
Drifting in from the right, Di Maria curled a left-foot shot around the diving Benaglio to seal the win, with just three minutes left in extra time.