Once again all eyes were on Lionel Messi when Argentina met Switzerland in their knockout stage. Messi and co were unbeaten in the group stages of the campaign looked forward to continue their momentum. But this time it was Di Maria who stole the lime light away from the Barcelona man.
The Swiss managed to keep the former Ballon d’Or winner quite throughout the game. Though Messi still managed to get pass through the defence but couldn’t capitalise further. While Argentina kept on pressing for the first goal, Switzerland got one of the best chances of the game when Shaqiri fired a low shot straight in the hands on the keeper.
As both the teams struggled to find the net in 90 minutes, the game went on to extra time. When everyone thought that the match was heading towards penalty, Di Maria scored the winner in the 118th minute.
Messi who was named as the match of the match for his performance admitted that he thought their World Cup dream could end. ‘We suffered, suffered and suffered, all of us,’ said Messi. ‘We started to think it wasn’t going to happen. But at the end we had luck on our side and now we have to take advantage and move on.
‘Like everybody, I was very nervous because we couldn’t score. We knew if we made a single mistake we would have been going home. We didn’t want it to go to penalties. We wanted to finish it off.’
The Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella was proud of the performances from his boys and thought there were a few areas that needed improvement. He said, “We were up against a very awkward side, and we probed down the right and probed down the left. I’d like to congratulate my players on their great performance, though there are some areas where we need to improve,”
It was a sad day for Swiss fans as they were not only blown out of the World Cup but the defeat brought an end to the managerial career of Ottmar Hitzfeld.
‘I am proud of my career. I have been very fortunate to coach marvellous teams and it has been a great honour to work for Switzerland.
‘I therefore am proud to say goodbye to the Switzerland team with a heart full of emotions.
‘We can walk tall and leave the World Cup with our heads held high.’ said the departing manager.
The Swiss were not the only ones whose hearts were broken. USA too was eliminated instead of setting up a new world record for the most number of saves in a match. Tim Howard’s 15 saves in a 2-1 loss against Belgium was a new world record. Kevin De Bruyne scored Belgium’s first goal early in extra time and Romelu Lukaku added the second. USA however scored a consolation goal through a superb volley by Julian Green.
Lukaku voiced his emotion saying that it was like a dream come true. “I almost cried after my goal. It was the greatest moment of my life. Scoring at the World Cup at the age of 21 is something I’ve trained for since I was a boy,” said the Belgian
When Howard was asked about his performance and the new world record post the match he said, “That’s a crazy stat. But bittersweet I suppose … You know, I don’t really keep count. It sucks that we lost. So that’s the overriding thing unfortunately.” And when asked whether it was his best performance till date he said, “I don’t know. Maybe. It was of the spectacular variety but we lost, so I don’t know if it can be counted up there.”
As the tournament progresses this will be one encounter to watch out when Argentina face Belgium in the Quarter Finals.
Personally for me this is the match that I will be waiting for as I’m expecting a high tempo game with lots of action. Messi and Co will face the mighty Belgians as the resilience of the both the sides will be tested.