Messi triggers overtime victory
Angel Di Maria scored deep into extra time Tuesday to give Argentina a 1-0 win over Switzerland and a spot in the World Cup quarterfinals.
With a penalty shootout looming, Lionel Messi made a surging run toward the Swiss area in the 118th minute and laid the ball off to Di Maria on the right.
The winger struck a left-foot shot past diving goalkeeper Diego Benaglio, prompting the Argentine bench to jump out on the field to celebrate the goal.
Swiss substitute Blerim Dzemaili nearly equalized right before the end but his header hit the post, and the rebound bounced off his knee and wide of the goal.
The result at Sao Paulo’s Itaquerao Stadium continued Argentina’s record of scraping by with narrow wins at this World Cup. Coach Alejandro Sabella’s men will play the winner of Belgium and the United States in the quarterfinals.
Di Maria said the Argentines knew from the start that there was a good chance that the game would go into extra time, like three of the six previous second-round matches.
“We know that this could happen to us, but we gave our souls out there on the pitch, we fought with our lives for each ball and we ended up as the winners,” Di Maria said.
It was a dramatic ending to what had been a tight match, with Argentina struggling to break through Switzerland’s disciplined defense.
Granit Xhaka and Josip Drmic had clear chances to put Switzerland ahead in the first half, but after that the Swiss mostly focused on repelling Argentina’s attacks and closing down space for Messi.
“We made life very tough on them,” Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said. “They managed to keep their cool. It shows Argentina has a good team.”
Hitzfeld, whose brother died at age 81 on the eve of the match, said that the match was his last as a football coach.