Argentina play Switzerland in the knockout stages today. On paper, this match appears a no-contest. Argentina have won all three matches by the margin of one goal each. Switzerland won against Honduras and Ecuador and lost heavily to France. Argentina are of course higher ranked and a team of considerable footballing pedigree. However, reputations have counted for little at this world cup, so all is not lost for Switzerland.
Switzerland’s hopes really do not lie in anything spectacular they have done. Other than the 3-0 demolition of Honduras in their last match, the Swiss have been very average, even abysmal when going down 2-5 to the French. At one point in that match, they were 0-5 down. How will they fare against a team whose attack is rated above that of the French?
The answer to this really depends on which Argentina turns up. The excitement of the fabulous four in attack (Messi, Higuain, Di Maria and Aguero) has been replaced with concern for the lack of support to Messi. Messi has had a great tournament, without a shadow of a doubt. But due to various reasons ranging from confusion about the ideal formation to employ to an injury cloud hanging over Aguero, Argentina as a team have been lacklustre. Their best performance in three matches came in the second half of their last group match against Nigeria. But that was a match where they had nothing to lose. It is open to question whether they can replicate this form when it counts. That might not be against the unfancied Swiss, but later on when they possibly play Belgium and Holland. In this match, expect them to continue to be unimpressive and do just enough to squeak past the Swiss.
Prediction: Argentina to earn a hard-fought win, possibly 1-0 or 2-1, against Switzerland. Di Maria to score his first goal of the tournament.