World Cup

Swiss face daunting Messi mission

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Argentina’s iconic captain Messi has so far scored four goals. AFP Photo 

By Mark Namanya in Brazil

Posted  Tuesday, July 1  2014 at  01:00

In Summary

Soccer. Messi carried Argentina through the group stage, scoring four of their goals. The other two came from an own goal and left back Marcos Rojo


If Switzerland are to upset Argentina at Arena De Sao Paulo in today’s lunchtime second round encounter, they will have to keep Lionel Messi quiet. That, as many teams know, is easier said than done.
Messi, Argentina’s iconic No.10, has scored in all games he has played at the World Cup to singlehandedly carry his team to this stage.
From owning just a single World Cup goal in eight years, the ‘Little Flea’ as he is fondly known has improved his haul to a total of five. There is nothing to suggest he is done.
Switzerland’s performance in the group stages may have earned them qualification but coach Ottmar Hitzfeld knows his team’s shortcomings.
A statistic of six goals conceded hardly gives you ideal preparation for the Herculean task of attempting to stop the world’s best player.

Uninspired forwards
Messi has been the lone light in Argentina’s uncertain displays.
Two of his four goals were worth framing and he will be licking his lips in anticipation if the Switzerland team sheet has the name Philippe Senderos.. Messi appears to have hit that mythical zone when everything he touches turns into gold.
The worry for the Albiceleste is that none of Messi’s fellow forwards has looked like scoring. Sergio Aguero’s injury has sidelined him while strikers Rodrigo Palacio and Gonzalo Higuain are desperately seeking their first 2014 World Cup goal.
Messi has been knocked out twice at quarter final level – Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010 – and feels he is running out of time to win the biggest trophy in the sport.
Ironically Switzerland’s best World Cup performance is reaching the quarters too – 1934, 1938 and 1954.
“It is going to be a match where we have nothing to lose,” said Hitzfeld when his team booked a date with the two-time World Champions.
What Switzerland will bank on certainly on the other hand is their capacity to exhibit doggedness and resilience. It is only through that steadfastness that they will give themselves a decent chance for a most unlikely upset.
Their attack’s leading star, Bayern Munich’s Xherdan Shaqiri, grabbed a hat-trick in the 3-0 mauling of Honduras to make huge statement of intent from the Europeans side.
Shaqiri is a player of great physical ability and verve as Honduras finally discovered. He will be carrying the Swiss on his shoulders.
Hitzfeld is famed for being a suave tactician thus only he knows how he will try to attempt to subdue the Messi threat.
Man-marking and zone defence have both had little accomplishment in burying the Argentine captain.
Against a disciplined and determined Iran team, Messi was shut out and deprived of service. But the genius he is allowed him to steal the match after 82 minutes with a marvelous strike.
But for a bizarre penalty decision, Iran had successfully offered a blue print on how to play Argentina; crowd Messi, use predominantly hard workers on the pitch and employ a world class goalkeeper. Switzerland ought to borrow a leaf.

Messi has been knocked out twice at quarter final level – Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010 – and feels he is running out of time to win the biggest trophy in the sport.