An Angel Di Maria goal in the final minutes of extra time has sent Argentina through to the quarter finals of the 2014 World Cup at Arena de Sao Paulo this morning.
Argentina went into their round of 16 clash with Switzerland as heavy favourites and many pundits were expecting a goal fest, but for the first 118 minutes of the game neither side was able to breakdown their opponents defense.
Switzerland were sent out in a defensive formation by coach Ottmar Hitzfeld and the side were unable to frustrate the attacking forays of Argentina, while taking the opportunity to press forward on the counter attack.
Lionel Messi was always going to be the danger man that Switzerland needed to shut down to be any chance of progressing to the quarter finals and they did a superb job shutting down the superstar in the first half; with the Swiss defense swarming Messi every time that he was in possession of the football.
Argentina were unable to create any meaningful chances in the first half and it was Switzerland that went the closest to taking a lead into the halftime break when Josip Drmic was unleashed on goal by Xherdan Shaqiri, but he was unable to take advantage of the opportunity and he spooned his shot into the hands of Argentinean goalkeeper Sergio Romero.
The Argentineans were able to take control of the game in the second half and created a great deal of genuine chances, but the finishing of Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain was wasteful and they were unable to take advantage of some brilliant lead-up play from Messi.
Neither side was able to find a goal before the end of 90 minutes and the game became the fourth fixture of the 2014 World Cup to go into extra time.
A penalty shootout looked like a distinct possibility with just three minutes remaining in the second period of extra time before Messi, as he has already done a number of times this tournament, took control of the game.
A brilliant Messi run left the Swiss defense bamboozled and a brilliant through ball gave Di Maria the chance to send Argentina through to the quarter finals and he did not waste the opportunity.
There was almost another late twist when a Blerim Dzemaili header hit the corner and he was unable to take advantage of the rebound; with Argentina holding on to score a narrow victory.
Messi was not thrilled with the performance of his side and admitted that he was dreading the possibility of a penalty shootout, but was simply happy that Argentina had kept their hopes of a third World Cup title alive.
“Like everybody I was very nervous because we couldn’t score and we suffered, suffered and suffered,” Messi said after the game.
“We started to think it wasn’t going to happen and we knew if we made a single mistake we would have been going home.
“We didn’t want it to go to penalties and wanted to finish it off.
“When I first got the ball I thought about taking the chance and shooting myself, but then I saw Ángel and made the pass.’’
Argentina will take on Belgium in what looms as a key quarter final clash on Sunday morning and they are available at odds of $2 in the betting market with Ladbrokes.com.au, while they are now available at a quote of $5 to win the tournament.