Argentina left it late, but a goal by Angel Di Maria deep into extra time helping the South American team defeat Switzerland to advance to the quarter-finals of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Argentina certainly seemed to sense that the clouds of doubt were forming as they came storming out of the gate today. Josip Drmic’s attempt 38 minutes in felt like the best attempt Switzerland had up until that point, and Romero treated it as a horse’s tail would a gadfly. Up until that point, the match had largely consisted of Argentina driving the ball forward and getting it to Lionel Messi and letting him do his thing in and around the penalty area. Unfortunately for Argentina, goalkeeper Diego Benaglio was playing like a man on a mission and none of their opportunities found the back of the net.
Within five minutes of the start of the second half, both teams had great efforts on goal that were once again sent wide; first Javier Mascherano’s and then Xherdan Shaqiri’s just minutes later. At the 63rd minute, Gonzalo Higuain once again seemed just inches from a goal, but a spirited save from Benaglio kept the score even. Argentina appeared to be on the verge of breaking through and Switzerland seemed to be ever so slowly capitulating under the persistent pressure.
Red and white proved stronger than azul and blanco, though. Switzerland’s stout, imposing defense kept valiant attempt after valiant attempt out of the back of the net and sent the two teams into extra time. Finally, after 28 hard fought minutes of extra time, Messi connected with Angel Di Maria, who then drove the ball home with a strong left foot. Minutes later, the final whistle blew and Argentina could breathe again; they had secured safe passage to the next round.
As satisfying as that Di Maria goal must have been for Argentine supporters across the globe, one cannot help but imagine that they are nervous as they prepare for the winner of today’s USA-Belgium match. Outside of Messi and Di Maria, few if any of their players have played to the caliber we know them to be capable of. They struggled against Nigeria and Iran, and seemed no better today. Despite dominating in possession and having far more shots on goal, they found themselves minutes away from a shootout. Argentina has thoroughly outplayed their opponents so far yet they have won each match by just a single goal. This could be a sign that they are this close to breaking through, or it could mean they are just as close to coming up short. As they prepare for their next match, they must commit themselves to making sure the latter is not the case.