Messi takes on three Swiss defenders / PHOTO: FIFA.com

Leo Messi and Javier Mascherano’s Argentina took on Switzerland in the Round of 16 World Cup match this Tuesday afternoon in Sao Paulo. The Argentinians, led by the FC Barcelona forward, struggled in the first half against a plucky and dangerous Swiss side, but took control of the match in the second half. Try as they might, neither the Argentinians not the Swiss were able to score until the 118th minute. Messi took on his defender, charged on goal, teed up Di María who fired past Benaglio to send Argentina through to the quarterfinals.

Deadlock in the first 45

Switzerland and Argentina locked horns in the first half, both teams looking to net the opener from the start. But it was the European side that enjoyed the lion share of chances in the opening 45 minutes. Argentina keeper Romero, halfway through the half, came up with two great saves to keep the Swiss off the board. Meanwhile, his teammates tried to breakdown Switzerland’s defence, and came close on a couple of occasions. Leo Messi – flanked by Di María, Lavezzi and Higuían – was Argentina’s danger man but the halftime whistle blew before the Albiceleste could muster a serious threat on Benaglio’s goal.

Nervy second half

The second half started off just as the first half ended, with Switzerland trying to take advantage of Argentina’s seemingly porous defence. The Argentinians slowly took control of possession and started to apply pressure to the Swiss back line. On 57 minutes Messi freed up Rojo with a through ball in the Swiss area, the left back fired on goal but Benaglio averted the danger with a quick save. Four minutes later it was Higuaín who was denied by the Swiss keeper. Messi tried his luck from range on 67 minutes but the attempt was inches above his intended target.

The FC Barcelona forward would try again 10 minutes later. Messi got possession at the top of the box, muscled past two defenders and unleashed a shot from just inside the area. But Benaglio came up big once again. The referee blew the final whistle with 0-0 on the scoreboard.

Extra time drama

The two periods of extra time were nervy for both teams. The Swiss, defending deep, looked to hit Argentina on the counter. The Argentinians, conversely, held possession and pinned their European counterparts back. Both sides enjoyed chances to score the winner, but it wasn’t until 118th minute that the breakthrough came.

Messi, who was just past the halfway line, charged toward goal with defenders in tow, and set up Di María in the Swiss area. The Argentinian forward squared up and fired a clinical shot past Benaglio to send his country through to the quarterfinals of the World Cup.