The seventh match of the knockout stages will be played on Tuesday 1st July between the much loved Lionel Messi’s Argentina side and the under the radar Switzerland side.
Argentina topped group F with a perfect three wins in three games. Switzerland, on the other hand, won their first and last games, with a heavy defeat against France sandwiched in between.
The La Albiceleste have been riding on the Messi juggernaut, who has scored in all the three matches (only Colombia’s James Rodriguez has scored in all games and bettered him).
Against Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina, he scored winners and was at his Barcelona-best against Nigeria. Other than Messi only Angel di Maria seemed to have carried his club form into the tournament while others look pedestrian at their best.
The defence is a real concern with Javier Mascherano the lone holding midfielder there’s always a possibility of getting exposed on the counter as all the wingers and forwards tend to swarm in the opposition one-third, leaving acres of space behind with less midfielders to cover the spaces and mark the opposition midfielders.
Against Nigeria, this flaw was exposed as the Nigerian midfielders overloaded the midfield and Ahmed Musa getting the space to run at the Argentine defence.
Switzerland has the same problems with respect to the defence, evident from their match against Ecuador (which they luckily escaped with a win) and the absolute humiliation by France with the calamitous center-back pairing of Johan Djourou and Philipe Senderos the cause for the defensive concerns.
Up top, Xherdan Shaqiri in the no.10 role (just behind the striker) and Josep Drmic’s linkup play has improved the Swiss attack.
Shaqiri was underwhelming in the first two games, but silenced his critics against Honduras with a fine hat-trick. His overall ability to change games is very much important to the Switzerland’s fortunes; we can say he’s the Swiss equivalent of Messi.
The game should be decided on how well Switzerland’s Gokhan Inler and Valon Behrami are able to nullify Messi’s presence when he decides to drop deep to carry the ball.
Di Maria’s runs on the left should give Stephan Lichtsteiner something to think about and be more defensive minded than he usually has been in the tournament. Switzerland’s Granit Xhaka’s shift as the right midfielder hasn’t been so fruitful and he’s more of a liability than an asset.
Fernando Gago has been subdued this tournament considering his talents and should be up for a good showing against the Swiss.
If Switzerland wants to get something from the game, they have to employ high pressing against Argentina to make them commit mistakes, although this tournament Switzerland have employed more of a reserved approach in pressing the opposition.
If this remains the case, Argentina should have a jolly good time in slicing them apart. The Argentina attack looked sharp in the last group game against Nigeria and their form will be crucial.