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July 1, 2014
 

Round of 16 Liveblog: Argentina v. Switzerland

You’re at work. I’m at home. I guess I kind of owe this to you don’t I? We’ll have a bootroom up for the USMNT match (no one will be working during that right?) but I’ll be parked on my couch to guide you through Messi’s continued coronation march. That or a pretty major upset.

You're ruining your own selfie.

You’re ruining your own selfie.

Yes I know Switzerland were seeded, and this is just the second match in the tournament between two seeded sides, but I strongly question how a side featuring Djourou and Senderos in defense ever made it into Pot 1. What’s that? Sepp Blatter is Swiss? Carry on.

Your boss won't mind.

Your boss won’t mind.

To be fair, Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side does have plenty of talent, it’s just that most of it is on the offensive side of the ball. They can play some great, attacking football. They can also concede five to France.

Argentina are similarly front-loaded and some of their defensive frailties were on display in a nervy match against Nigeria. Aguero’s injury could be a blessing for disguise for La Albiceleste as the Manchester City player really never took flight in this tournament. Higuain hasn’t showed his talent yet either and Lavezzi will be asked to do more than just come in an hustle this time around.

Of course that is all moot if Messi can be Messi, and so far he’s shown every intention of carrying this group to the World Cup Final.

The goals have dropped off a bit in this round, as was to be expected, but something tells me the goalkeepers will be busy today in Sao Paulo, often picking that Brazuca out of the back of the net.

Join me right here before kickoff for lineups and to find out how my morning by the pool went. (Editor’s note: It went fantastic.)

Pregame

Lineups:

Argentina: Romero; Zabaleta, Garay, Fernandez, Rojo;  Mascherano, Gago, Di Maria; Messi, Lavezzi, Higuain

Switzerland: Benaglio; Lichtsteiner, Djourou, Schaer, Rodriguez; Behrami, Inler; Shaqiri, Xhaka, Mehmedi; Drmic

The pool was excellent by the way.

This Argentina squad has the lowest collective height difference between players and child mascots at the tournament.

Looks like a beautiful day for football!

Shaqiri quite short too. Valbuena’s doing great things, Messi a hobbit. Great World Cup for short dudes.

So many different ways to cross your arms!

Kickoff! Here we go in Sao Paulo.

2′ – Argentina possessing so far. Higuain with some good hold up play. For me, that’s what he gives the squad that Aguero doesn’t.

3′ – Harsh tackle by Shaqiri on Lavezzi, that’s a warning. Switzerland will want to be physical.

4′ – Shaqiri himself now crunched down by Fernandez. The Argentina fans are in full voice now. Overwhelming support for the South Americans.

6′ – Lichtsteiner with a blatant hold on Di Maria after the Argentine skinned him. Very cynical, lucky to just receive a warning as Di Maria had a clear lane down the left side.

8′ – Some great play by Switzerland eventually frees Mehmedi to run onto the byline. He has to stretch though and his cross is just too weak and easily cleared. Encouraging for the men in red.

10′ – Di Maria held again. Free kick for Argentina on the left side. Good chance for a cross. Cleared by Djourou.

12′ – Djourou almost gifts a chance to Higuain after his lazy clearance was blocked. He did well to recover but you have to worry about the center of your defense if you’re a Swiss fan.

13′ – Messi with his first real scamper into the box, he crosses low but just too close to Benaglio. Di Maria finding success on that left side still.

15′ – Xhaka stops Messi in the usual way by bundling him over. 10 on 10 crime.

16′ – Zabaleta makes a nice overlapping run after more good hold-up play by Higuain but his cross is once again an easy catch for Benaglio. Argentina bossing play so far.

19′ – A little trickery from Rodriguez to evade Lavezzi as they track a long ball. Skillful play but he almost found himself in trouble.

20′ – Now Rodriguez just manages to muscle out Messi when the little Argentine looked like he may have wiggled through wide out to the right. Argentina’s forwards very fluid, moving all over the pitch.

23′ – Halfway to the break and no clear cut chances for either side. But I have beer and I’m not wearing pants. Life is good.

24′ – Di Maria fouled yet again, this time in a more dangerous position. The Swiss size advantage is noticeable on each Argentina attack though. Messi swarmed by bigger bodies with every touch.

25′ – Messi drives the free kick low and Higuain tries to reach back and get a flick but tough to steer that one on goal with his head. It’s well over for a goal kick.

27′ – Switzerland win the match’s first corner kick. Shaqiri’s delivery is good but it’s hacked clear eventually. They win another corner on the second attempt.

28′ – CHANCE! Short corner is cleverly taken by Shaqiri who gets it back and lays it off for Xhaka  8 yards out. The number 10 keeps it hard, low, and on goal but Romero gets down and kicks it away! Too close to the keeper but a real danger for Argentina there.

29′ – Argentina on target now but the shot was too tame to trouble Benaglio.

30′ – Corner to Argentina and Di Maria’s service slices through the Swiss 6-yard box but no one gets a touch! Benaglio was flailing but Argentina didn’t have anyone even close really.

31′ – Djourou with some good defending (yes, I said it) after interplay from Di Maria and Messi. They’ve looked the most likely Argentine combination thus far.

34′ – Shaqiri dancing along the right flank as the Swiss get forward. Lavezzi evnetually comes in late and the Swiss have a free kick near the corner.

35′ – Romero deals with the cross but not totally convincingly. Strong enough hand on it in the end.

36′ – YELLOW CARD – Xhaka gets the first caution and it’s more than fair. That’s his third such foul, this time in some frustration after good play from Lavezzi.

39′ – CHANCE! Drmic was in on goal after some hesitation from Romero who should have done a Neuer impression! The keeper was in no man’s land and Drmic went for the chip but it’s scooped right into Romero’s hands. Probably the right idea but poorly executed. Switzerland have had the more threatening opportunities it must be said.

41′ – Messi with a strong run to the top of the box again. He gets the ball to Di Maria who tamely side foots it straight at Benaglio. Messi may need to be more selfish in the second half.

43′ – Switzerland’s organization has effectively taken the crowd out of this match. As I type Lavezzi finds some space in the box and drives a low cross that is again cleared by a strong Swiss boot.

45′ – Corner to Switzerland after a quick break from an interception. Drmic was waiting for help but waited just too long and his cross goes out behind. Shaqiri takes. And it’s cleared.

HALFTIME: Well, I predicted goals so of course it’s 0-0. Switzerland will be the happier of the two sides and it’s really been more of the same for Argentina. Plenty of possession but no final product. Messi is crowded every time he’s on the ball. Di Maria and Lavezzi are active but the Swiss have had the only real chances in the half. Being critical you may say they should be a goal up, and as we’ve seen it only takes a little bit of space for Messi to make you pay. Hopefully it picks up in the second half. Back in a flash.

Second half begins!

SUBSTITUTION: Inler has come on for Switzerland. Not sure who he’s removed yet. Nevermind, he’s been on from the start. Weird.

47′ – Higuain wins the first corner of the half for Argentina after more solid work from Djourou. It’s cleared but here comes another. Messi to take. Short corner. Back to Messi. Cross cleared. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

50′ – Now Shaqiri lines up a free kick. Service would be smarter than a shot from this distance/angle. He goes for goal but Romero gets over. He bobbles but collects.

51′ – Shaqiri into the box again out wide. He lays it off for Drmic but the striker blasts over. Unconvincing from the lone, true front-man so far.

55′ – Argentina just finding it impossible to pick out that killer pass. Everything seemingly closed down by the Swiss. They’ve shown a real improvement since the drubbing by France. No Senderos. Coincidence? No.

59′ – Rojo comes all the way forward and the ball gets swung wide to him in the box for a tough angle shot. No real venom but Benaglio looked a bit wrong-footed and almost made a meal of it. It’s cleared and now Argentina have a corner. Switzerland clear but Argentina regain possession. Di Maria blasts a cross well out of play. Sigh. Oh and on replay he tried to be way to fancy with that, swinging one leg behind the other for the shanked cross.

61′ – Shaer takes out Messi who had him under pressure. Lionel to take, cleared by Djourou.

62′ – SAVE! Benaglio tips over Higuain’s first real effort on goal. Nice and central for the keeper but he got up well to push the header high. The corner is wasted again.

65′ – Corner to Argentina. Lavezzi takes…the Swiss clear eventually.

66′ – SUBSTITUTION – Fernandes comes on for Switzerland. Xhaka off. A bit surprising for me, but the number 10 was pretty ineffective.

68′ – Messi takes his first real shot in anger and it’s inches high. Great technique to chest down and fire. Close.

69′ – Drmic almost breaks through but Rojo covers his CBs well and earns a free kick in his tussle with the striker.

73′ – YELLOW CARD – Fernandes makes his first real impact by felling Di Maria. The Real Madrid man has been battered today.

74′ – SUBSTITUTION – Lavezzi replaced by Palacio for Argentina. The PSG man put in a good shift but little to show for it.

75′ – Messi with a floated cross finds Palacio wide open but it’s just a little behind him and his header flashed wide. Positive introduction though. Please don’t let this match go to extra time.

78′ – SAVE! Benaglio gets down low to stop a Messi drive and there was a mighty scramble to clear the rebound. Good reaction from the Swiss keeper and brave  to thwart Palacio’s attempt at picking up the scraps. He took a knock but now faces an Argentina corner. And he punches clear but the ball had swung out of bounds apparently.

81′ – It’s all Argentina now but the Swiss are still obstructing just about every foray forward. They are asking for trouble though as they retreat further and further.

82′ – SUBSTITUTION: Drmic makes way for Seferovic. The former had the chance to be the hero and flubbed his line. His replacement will struggle to even get a touch at this rate.

83′ – Seferovic does get the ball and makes a strong, fresh-legged run forward. Too bad he was all alone.

84′ – Corner Argentina after a deflected Di Maria shot. It’s cleared but Argentina retain possession. Rojo eventually blasts a shot well over.

87′ – Sniper alert! Behrami nudged by Messi. Hits the deck hard. And we get a slow-mo shot of Palacio’s weird hair.

90′ – YELLOW CARD: Rojo cautioned for a tackle from behind and he will miss the QF is Argentina progress.

FULL TIME: Still 0-0 in Sao Paulo. Not much else to say. It’s been pretty damn boring but it’s still the World Cup so don’t look away. Argentina looking far more likely in the past forty-five minutes but it just takes one chance for the Swiss to flip the script. Extra time on the way.

First Extra Time Period begins!

91′ – I had a good idea to find you some Swiss bewbz during the break, but like the players in this match, I failed to execute.

92′ – Benaglio just gets hand to an Argentina cross and knocks it out for the corner. He gets a hand to that too and the Swiss breathe a sigh of relief. On second look that may go down as a save as Garay got to that ball a fraction earlier.

93′ – Messi and Behrami tussle again. The ref plays advantage and it’s a good one but yet another Swiss cross finds no one in the box.

96′ – Man this is sloppy. Mascherano brings down Shaqiri who is growing back into the game. Decent free kick opportunity out wide to the left for Switzerland. And once again it’s cleared.

100′ – A little possession for the Swiss now and Shaqiri still looking spritely. They almost loose Seferovic down the middle but he strayed offside.

103′ – Inler does something! He runs down the middle and gives the ball away easily.

105′ – The referee defends Shaqiri well, and the little Swiss midfielder is none to pleased about it.

SUBSTITUTION: Rojo succumbs to a knock. Basanta replaces him, like for like.

First Extra Time ends: Still 0-0. The Swiss really came back into the game in the last five or ten minutes there. Can they nick one?

Second Extra Time Period begins. No exclamation point this time.

109′ – SAVE! Benaglio rises and palms away a strong near post drive by Di Maria. Smart stop once again by the Swiss keeper. The corner, as usual, comes to nothing.

112′ – Another Argentina corner. They do know these are supposed to be useful, right? Guess what? This one wasn’t.

113′ – SUBSTITUTION: Mehmedi exits. Dzemaili enters. Just to take a penalty perhaps?

118′ - GOAL! GOAL! GOAL! Argentina scores and surely they are through. This time Messi makes it and Di Maria slots it home! He’s been Argentina’s best player for me and he one-times the shot back across Benaglio who has no chance. Clinical finish and so, so important to avoid penalties. Heartbreak for Switzerland, but this is what Argentina have done to every team that has done so well to stifle them so far. Eventually, somehow, they get through.

120′ – Corner to Switzerland. Is there time for a twist? Well almost! Benaglio is up and bicycles a  shanked shot… and another cross comes in and DZEMAILI HITS THE POST!!! He was wide open and had the goal at his mercy! My oh my!

120′ +3 – Benaglio is another striker… Di Maria breaks free and can’t quite hit the goal from just past midfield. Could have sealed it spectacularly there. And now Shaqiri has won a free kick right at the top of the box. Can they equalize with some late magic?

120′ +4 – Well finally some drama here and it’s come so, so late. Two nations hold their breaths…

It’s straight into the wall and ARGENTINA SURVIVE!

Final after 120 min: 1-0 Argentina. Wow. Well that came to life didn’t it? Was it worth it? For you, UFers, of course it was. Go take a nap, finish your work, or restock the fridge. It’s almost OOSAH time. Thanks, as always, for joining me.



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