2014 WORLD CUP BRAZIL | ARGENTINA 1 - SWITZERLAND 0
Argentina have an angel of their very own... Di María
The Albicelestes booked their place in the quarter-finals after the Real Madrid player’s opener on 118 minutes; Dzemaili hit the post on 120 minutes.
Watching the Argentina team in action, with Leo Messi and amongst a throng of Argentinean fans is an experience that every football fan should try out at least once in their lives. They shout, they sing, they’re passionate and have their own particular, humorous brand of insults which converts even the most offensive of comments into something which never fails to raise a smile. And how they suffer... The national team is everything to them, it comes before anything else, and when Leo Messi is on the ball, you can feel the tension rise, the expectation is palpable as the crowd waits for the Barça ace to put the finishing touch on a move. Tonight, he invited Di María to finish off a move he started.
The 30 minutes of extra-time were agonizing. Sabella’s troops had tried to breach an impervious and well-organized Swiss back line but there was no way through. Not a chink in Switzerland’s armour and yet Argentina were hardly brimming with ideas and creativity. The Albicelestes were relying on a glimpse of Messi magic or Di María’s bravado.
Di María, or the ‘Noodle’ as he is called, only had to apply a first-time finish to steer home Messi’s through ball. The Barça star spotted a gap in the Swiss defence and set off on one of his mazy runs – the kind that seem simple, but are anything but. Messi sensed an opening before anyone else, and saw that Di María was alone, unmarked and making dash into the far side of the penalty area – his pass was hit with such precision, that the Noodle merely had to guide the ball past Benaglio with a low, diagonal strike.
That opener signalled the end of Switzerland’s systematic, organized tack on the game. Hitzfeld made a couple of positional changes and it was only by a miracle that they didn’t manage to pull level right at the death – Dzemaili, who was inconsolable on the final whistle, had struck the upright just moments before. Had it entered, it might have been very different.
Sabella might remind his players at some point over the next four days that luck plays a big part in who advances and who doesn’t – we’ll see whether Argentina can reach their objective. If they do go all the way and step out at Maracanã, they will have proved that one player is capable of guiding them to glory. Messi is still the dependable one but tonight he was accompanied by an angel of his own – Di María.