by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 1st 2014)
Real Madridʼs Ángel di María Hernández had an awful match by his standards, missing chances and wasting possession several times, yet with just two minutes of extra time remaining he scored the winning goal. Lionel Messi was named man of the match, but did little to justify it. This was a poor match, although Ottmar Hitzfeldʼs tactics canʼt be faulted.
After being mauled by France, Hitzfeld chose to keep things tight and frustrate Messi and co. It almost worked. With less than three minutes of extra time remaining Rodrigo Palacio passed to Messi in the centre. He ran towards the area before slipping it to di María on the right. The Real Madrid man shot across the keeper to break Swiss hearts.
But they almost responded. Ricardo Rodríguez Arayaʼs corner found its way to Bayern Münchenʼs Xherdan Shaqiri on the other wing. Napoliʼs Blerim Džemailiʼs last minute header hit the post with Argentinaʼs keeper Sergio Romero beaten. It rebounded onto Džemailiʼs knee and went wide. Shortly afterwards with the Swiss keeper Diego Benaglio trying to find an equaliser di María tried an audacious effort from just inside his own half. It went just wide.
The first half had little to recommend it. Di María was repeatedly fouled. The shooting was wayward. Sergio Romero saved with his legs from Granit Xhaka after 25 minutes. Ten minutes later Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson decided that Xhakaʼs awful tackle on Ezequiel Lavezzi deserved a booking – it did.
Argentina lacked final product with di María losing possession almost 40 times in normal time, but Switzerlandʼs Josip Drmić wasted the best opportunity of the 90 minutes chipping a stranded Romero. He made such a hash of his lob that Romero caught easily. The keeper stood rooted in no-manʼs land. Drmić should have scored easily.
Switzerland invited Argentina to break them down – a task that should have been against ten men as two minutes into the second half Xhaka clattered di María. It should have been his second yellow card and therefore a red card, but Eriksson pulled play back to deny the advantage to Argentina without showing a card.
Argentina created chances for substitute Rodrigo Palacio almost as soon as he came on, but he headed wide. Higuaín had another off day. Di María was having a shocking game and Messi despite his skill could not find a way past Diego Benaglio, but for all his trick and a sumptuous volley that just cleared the bar with time running out he found the key to unlock a stubborn Swiss team with penalties looming.
Three minutes into the second half of extra time di María found his range drawing a tip over from Benaglio from his 20 yard effort. Argentina will play far better and lose, but Alejandro Sabella wonʼt care. His team are in the last eight without playing well or Messi scoring. Meanwhile, Hitzfeld has retired.