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Preview: Messi ready to shine again in eighth-final

English.news.cn   2014-07-01 10:12:02

Argentina's Lionel Messi (R) warms up during a training session in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on June 30, 2014, ahead of a Round of 16 match between Argentina and Switzerland of 2014 FIFA World Cup. (Xinhua/TELAM)

SAO PAULO, June 30 (Xinhua) -- Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi has been enjoying his first truly outstanding World Cup run so far in Brizil. The four time Ballon d'Or winner is ready to pace the team to go further but the Albiceleste side have to face a determined Switzerland in the round of 16 here on Tuesday.

The 27-year-old Messi has scored four out of the six group stage goals for Argentina, leading the team almost single-handedly to finish on top of Group F with a perfect all-win record.

"I am not surprised by his performance. His teammates and all Argentines expected he will have a great World Cup this time," said Argentinian coach Alejandro Sabella, who even compared Messi's leadership to the country's all-time legend Diego Maradona.

Switzerland on the other hand took a more winding road to reach the last 16, clinching their ticket after the third round 3-0 victory against Honduras owing to the hat-trick from Bayern Munich star Xherdan Shaqiri.

Knowing for their solid defence, the Swiss conceded six goals in their three group matches including the 2-1 victory against Ecuador and 5-2 defeat to a rampant France. Considering the Swiss only gave up six goals from ten matches in the European Zone qualifiers, their defenders were not really doing a successful job here in Brazil.

When taking on Messi's Argentina, the Swiss defenders will face another serious challenge and their season coach Ottmar Hitzfeld chose to trust his players.

"Actually, any defense can have problems when facing Messi. But all problems are there to be solved. I trust my defenders as well as all my other players," said Hitzfeld during a pre-match news conference here on Monday.

"Our performance has improved since we arrived in Brazil. The five goals to France woke us. It was like a wakeup call and helped us recover in the match against Honduras," said the 65-year-old German.

Good news for the Swiss defending line is that the Albiceleste will be without Sergio Aguero due to a leg muscle injury. But Hitzfeld believed Argentina had many good strikers with great potential, whoever starts in Tuesday's match could be a real threat.

PSG striker Ezequiel Lavezzi is likely to start in place of Aguero, and Rodrigo Palacio from Inter Milan is also in consideration.

Hitzfeld's side, meanwhile, will also be missing striker Mario Gavranovic who has sustained a knee injury.

The two teams have played six matches so far with Argentina enjoying four wins and two draws. The only time they met in World Cup was in 1966 when Argentina beat Switzerland 2-0 in a group match in England's Sheffield. The last encounter was a friendly in 2012 when Argentina won 3-1 in Swiss city Berne.

Switzerland have contested in nine FIFA World Cup finals before and reached the last eight for three times. But their most recent appearance at the quarterfinal round came almost 50 years ago, at the 1954 finals on home soil.


Editor: Mengjie
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