Argentina XI: Romero, Federico Fernandez, Zabaleta, Garay, Rojo, Gago, Mascherano, Di Maria, Higuain, Messi, Lavezzi.
Subs: Orion, Campagnaro, Biglia, Perez, Maxi Rodriguez, Augusto Fernandez, Demichelis, Palacio, Alvarez, Aguero, Andujar, Basanta.
Switzerland XI: Benaglio, Lichtsteiner, Schar, Djourou, Rodriguez, Inler, Behrami, Xhaka, Shaqiri, Mehmedi, Drmic.
Subs: Sommer, Ziegler, Senderos, von Bergen, Lang, Barnetta, Seferovic, Stocker, Dzemaili, Fernandes, Gavranovic, Burki.
The clear skies matched the light blue of Argentina – los Albiceleste. They had overwhelming crowd support but the few Swiss fans put up a competition. The situation was similar on the pitch. Argentina’s defense has been suspect this whole tournament, and again today it was below par. The two real chances of the first half came from Switzerland, first Xhaka with a tantalizing shot that was saved by Romero. The second came from an Argentine defensive error that saw Drimic run away with the ball form the half way line, had his finishing been better, Argentina would have been a goal down.
The Swiss defense on the other hand was much more organized, Djourou and Rodriguez had Messi locked, not giving him much room, although he was playing a lot more deeper than I usually like. The chances he did have with the ball were always fleeting one touch moments, the Swiss ran him into tight situations. He did link up with Di Maria on a few occasions but the latter had a disappointing performance for most of the match.
In the second half however Argentina came out pushing hard. But all attempts were either thwarted by Djourou (who was phenomenal for Switzerland) or the Argentinians themselves didn’t have enough on it. One such chance came in the 77th minute, Messi found the ball on the edge of the area, and hammered a low drive shot through the legs of Rodriguez, but it was saved by Benaglio. A few moments La Pulga then made a a brilliant run with the , but Palacio (who had now come on for Lavezzi) could not control his cross. At times it seemed like Messi was carrying the entire Argentina side: trying to untangle himself from the web of defenders Switzerland had created around him AND still creating chances. On the Swiss end, Shaqiri and Drimic kept the pressure on the Argentine defense, but they seemed to lack any finishing power.
The game went into overtime, and Angel di Maria, who was quite frankly appalling the whole match, seem to get a second wind. His first chance was from the edge of the box, but the ball was saved by Benaglio. The second chance came when Palacio ran the ball forward to Messi who danced his way past two defenders to set up di Maria who finally came good and scored.
The way forward Argentina
Argentina did not look like potential champions today. The first half was absolutely shocking, poor tactics, the players themselves were substandard. Di Maria alone gave away the ball more than 25 times in the first half – a statistic that is unacceptable for someone that’s considered “World Class.” The Swiss must be commended for their defensive play and their ability to contain Messi. But well into overtime, they seemed a bit lethargic while Argentina piped up – the difference perhaps between the more experienced sides and so called “smaller sides.” Coach Sabella will have to shuffle things a little if they want to make it to the finals. .They will have to tighten up their defense, because teams like Germany aren’t going to miss as many chances as Switzerland did. They will have to also find away around the “Messi Blocking” tactic – most teams are likely to just deploy 3-4 defenders onto him at any given point.