Switzerland played Argentina tough – indeed, tougher than many thought they were capable of – but in the end their bid at an upset was denied by a goal deep into extra time by Argentina’s Angel Di Maria. The Albiceleste’s win sees them through to the quarterfinals for a date against Belgium or the USA, while Switzerland’s solid run at the World Cup is finally done.
THE NUT CRACKS: Argentina had 29 shots in the match. Only eight were on target. More shocking still, 12 were blocked by Swiss defenders. The Albiceleste put a ton of pressure on Switzerland’s defense, but Ottmar Hitzfeld’s team proved an impossible nut to crack. For 118 minutes. Then Lionel Messi conjured another moment of magic, stampeding through the center of the Swiss defense before feeding Di Maria for the shot, which he converted brilliantly to give Argentina the win.
ARE YOU TOO GOOD FOR YOUR HOME?: So, how did Blerim Dzemaili’s shot in the 121st minute not go in? The Swiss midfielder got a free header right on Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero’s doorstep, but banged it off the post from less than six yards out. With a gaping hole still left open to him, the ball bounced off Dzemaili’s knee and then rolled harmlessly out of bounds. The soccer gods were cruel to the Swiss.
HITTING THE WALL: When Xherdan Shaqiri got to the endline on the 28th minute and served a pass back to teammate Granit Xhaka, scoring seemed like a formality. But Romero stoned Xhaka with a great kick save. The “what-ifs” will be with the Swiss for a long, long time.
ONE IS THE LONELIEST NUMBER: Switzerland lined up in what was ostensibly a 4-2-3-1, but it looked mostly like a 4-4-1-1 with eight defenders and Shaqiri as the lone midfielder. But with Shaqiri dropping back to get more touches, striker Josip Drmic was mostly left alone up top. So very alone. No-other-red-shirt-within-25-yards-of-him alone. The formation led to plenty of counterattacks, but frequently there was just no support to be had.
AIR RAID: Facing a block of red shirts, the Albiceleste were reduced to putting in crosses from out wide, and as good as Argentina can be on set pieces, the Swiss were more than equal to the task of clearing their lines and winning defensive headers. Argentina was able to get a little more space as the second half wore on, but Switzerland’s formation effectively kept the ball off Messi's feet for more than an hour.
That was first half in which Lionel Messi didn't have shot at this World Cup. #ARG— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) July 1, 2014
BIEN-AGLIO: He was finally beaten by a really well-taken shot deep in extra time, but holy moly did Diego Benaglio have some good saves for Switzerland. In the 67th minute, Benaglio was forced into a snap save on Gonzalo Higuain’s header in the center of the six-yard box. Eleven minutes later, Lionel Messi took a shot from about 12 yards out that was screened by two Swiss defenders, and still Benaglio somehow managed to get down and stop it, and then got kicked in the ribs for his trouble. In the 109th minute, he had to dive to stop a rocket by Angel Di Maria. You get the point. He had a good game.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Xherdan Shaqiri, Switzerland – The Swiss could very easily have rolled over and let Argentina run wild on them, but Shaqiri kept possession in midfield when he could and was relentless in trying to find a hole in the Albiceleste defense. Huge game for the young midfielder.