World Cup Round of 16 | Sao Paulo | Tue 1 Jul | 5pm
Battle of the game-changers: Lionel Messi vs Xherdan Shaqiri
In a game against Nigeria that meant very little in terms of qualification, Lionel Messi continued to stamp his authority in an Argentina team that carries all the hallmarks of the 1986 world champions.
Back then, Diego Maradona pushed his team-mates through the tournament with a clutch of mesmerising performances. So far, Barcelona's driving force looks like matching his efforts. He has delivered key goals (four in total) in all three group matches. Argentina cannot do without him.
But Switzerland have unshackled their own match-winner: Xherdan Shaqiri, the right winger currently out of favour at Bayern Munich, scored a hat-trick against against Honduras on Wednesday. If Switzerland can maximise his involvement here, this will be a tasty showdown.
What the local media say
"Argentina forward Sergio 'Kun' Agüero will undergo medical tests on his left thigh, after being replaced by coach Alejandro Sabella during the game won against Nigeria due to muscular pain. Kun had to leave the game at 37 minutes of the first half because of 'an ache in his left thigh,' Argentina’s medical staff revealed after the game in Porto Alegre." - Buenos Aries Herald.
"The Swiss football squad were under immense pressure and the conditions in the Brazilian jungle were difficult, according to Blick.
"But Switzerland passed the test with flying colours, showing class and substance. Shaqiri, who scored the three goals on Wednesday night, had proved himself to be Switzerland’s answer to Argentina’s Lionel Messi, the paper said in a commentary." - The Local.
Key battle: Marcus Rojo vs Xherdan Shaqiri
Prior to the Honduras fixture, the Bayern winger had come in for a little criticism. Some fans claimed he wasn't living up to his top billing status, others felt he was wilting in the limelight. Three goals quickly silenced the doubters and piqued Liverpool's interest in his talents (Brendan Rodgers is courting so many wingers it's conceivable Premier League opponents will be able to drive a team bus through the middle of his line-up next season). In their final group game Shaqiri played in the middle of a front four; Josip Drmic leading the attack. If he drifts outside, Argentinean left back-cum-centre half Marcos Rojo will have to be on his mettle.
Facts and figures
- This will be the 7th international meeting between Argentina and Switzerland. Argentina are unbeaten in their previous 6 (W4 D2).
- The Swiss have kept a clean sheet in 7 of their last 10 World Cup finals matches.
- Argentina have had an average possession figure of 65% so far at this tournament – the highest in this finals and their highest average at a World Cup finals since 1966.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
An easy 2-0 win for Argentina.