By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A late piece of Lionel Messi magic helped Argentina to a 1-0 win over Switzerland in the second round of the FIFA World Cup at the Arena Corinthians this afternoon (July 1st). With the game seemingly set for penalties, Messi lay the game’s only goal on a plate for Angel di Maria in the 118th minute to break Swiss hearts.
The South Americans had been poor by their own high standards and the late strike was cruel in the extreme after a valiant effort from the Europeans. Switzerland had two chances in the last minute of a fiercely fought contest but return empty handed.
The biggest compliment one can pay the Swiss is they managed to keep Messi quiet for the vast majority of the tie. Yet then Messi did what Messi does, slicing through the opposition midfield like warm butter, teeing up di Maria to slot the ball past an outstretched Diego Benaglio in goal.
The first half was quiet on the whole, until Granit Xhaka saw his effort blocked by Argentine stopper Sergio Romero. Argentina looked static in attack and the link-up play between Messi, di Maria and Ezequiel Lavezzi was virtually non-existent.
Switzerland had the best chance of the half, Shaqiri releasing forward Josup Drmic, but the striker chipped a tame effort directly into Romero’s grateful gloves. The sides went in goalless at the half-time break.
Argentina started the second half at a quicker tempo, Messi immediately setting up Gonzalo Higuain, but the No. 9 couldn’t get his shot away in time. Marcos Rojo then went close for the Argentinians before Benaglio saved from an Higuain header.
Pressure increased on Switzerland as Benaglio was forced into action yet again, this time from substitute Rodrigo Palacio, and with the score still goalless the tie entered extra-time.
Argentina continued to press and probe, Ezequiel Garay and di Maria again drawing smart saves from Benaglio. But he was finally beaten with less than two minutes remaining when Messi and di Maria combined to devastating effect.
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