Switzerland lived up to its uncharacteristically high tournament seeding Tuesday. It took the latest goal in Argentina’s storied World Cup history, but a 118th minute, left-footed strike from Real Madrid’s Ángel di María closed the tab on the Round of 16’s fourth extra time game, and sent his country to its third straight quarterfinal appearance.
Ezequiel Garay took down Xherdan Shaqiri just outside the penalty area and earned a yellow card two minutes into stoppage time. His strike from 18 yards out struck the wall and ended the Swiss’s valiant game plan.
Despite being the only round of 16 game that paired two No. 1 seeds from the group stage, Switzerland limped into this playoff after a five-goal thrashing from France. Argentina was a heavy pre-tournament favorite because of its comical overload of attacking talent, and a No. 10 that just so happened to be the world’s greatest player.
The trophy case full of globetrotters proved to be a burden as its talent struggled to adhere to its comparatively humble, domestic league-based manager Alejandro Sabella’s tactics. Ezequiel Lavezzi appeared to disrespect his coach in the group stage by spraying him with a water bottle. Only Lionel Messi was clocking goals.
The Swiss held him without a shot attempt for a full half. Argentina was stifled, amassing enough yellow cards to become the World Cup’s second-most booked side (113 cards). But Argentina kept plugging in, winning 12 corners in regulation.
Pregame, Shaqiri seemed to know something the world didn’t.
Switzerland offered up the best game plan for Argentina, the United States’ next opponent should it defeat Belgium—threaten on the counter, swarm Messi, make someone else beat you. Unfortunately, di María was up to the task.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons