We’re now at the stage of the World Cup where the real work begins and Argentina will hope they can keep their winning form going when they take on Switzerland in their round of 16 match on Tuesday evening.
The Argentinians qualified for the knockout stages after finishing top of group F, winning all three of their games against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria. They looked more like the team we expected to see when they took on Nigeria but it’s fair to say that they probably haven’t reached their highest level of performance yet.
Xherdan Shaqiri inspired Switzerland in their last game with a hat-trick and will be hoping he can do the same against Alejandro Sabella’s side. The Swiss found it very difficult however against France in their second group match, losing 5-2 to their European counterparts, and they will be facing a similarly-skilled side in Argentina.
It was reported before the weekend that Sergio Aguero may be unable to feature for Argentina after picking up an injury in the game against Nigeria. There is still a chance he could play but it is looking unlikely at this stage.
Mario Gavranovic is the only absentee for the Swiss after picking up a ligament injury in training over the weekend. Unfortunately for the 24 year old, this means his World Cup is over.
Argentina have played Switzerland six times before, winning four and losing none.
Lionel Messi has scored four of Argentina’s six goals in the tournament so far. Only Marcos Rojo has scored another goal, the last one being an own goal by Bosnia.
Switzerland have not been to the quarter finals of a World Cup since they hosted it in 1954.
Ominously for the Swiss, the last time they played Argentina, Messi scored a hat-trick in a 3-1 defeat for the Europeans.
Argentina – Lionel Messi
Messi has answered his critics and proven that he can play just as well for Argentina as he can for Barcelona. His four goals in the tournament so far mean that he is currently tied second with Neymar and Thomas Muller behind Columbia’s James Rodriguez, who is currently on five goals (at time of writing). According to Squawka.com Messi has only been accurate with 45% of his shots despite these goals but has managed to create 10 chances for his team mates. He is averaging an 85% passing accuracy so far and has also won 62% of his duels. Argentina probably wouldn’t have won all three of their games if it hadn’t been for Messi and they’ll hope for another big performance from him in the game against Switzerland.
Switzerland – Xherdan Shaqiri
Shaqiri has also been one of the main players for his country at the World Cup so far and will likely be Switzerland’s biggest threat as far as Argentina are concerned. As mentioned earlier, Shaqiri scored all three goals in their last group game against Honduras although these are the only goals he has scored so far. According to Squawka.com he has been accurate with 65% of his shots and has actually created one more chance for his team mates than Messi with 11. He is also averaging a slightly better passing accuracy than Messi at 87% but has only managed to win 42% of his duels. The Bayern Munich midfielder definitely has the ability to harry Argentina’s defence and it will be interesting to see how they cope with him on Tuesday.
I think it will be a fairly close game. Argentina will rely heavily on Messi as they have in their previous matches, but he has so far shown he can handle this pressure and win games almost single-handedly. Shaqiri could have a similar impact for his team but ultimately Switzerland’s attack isn’t as strong and therefore I think it will be the Argentinians who will advance to the quarter finals with a 2-1 victory.