SAO PAULO, July 1 (Xinhua) -- Thanks to Angel Di Maria's late winner three minutes before the end of extra time, Argentina ousted a defence-minded Switzerland in a World Cup round of 16 match here on Tuesday.
Di Maria's solo goal came in the 117th minute after the 90-minute regular time ended at 0-0. Meeting the ball in the middle, Lionel Messi dribbled past his defender and feed the ball to the Real Madrid winger in the right of the box. Di Maria's one-touch low shot went past a diving Swiss goalie Diego Benaglio and into the bottom corner of the net.
"I was quite nervous because we could not score a goal. And any mistake could have left us out from the World Cup. We did not want the penalty we want to finish the match in extra time," said Messi, who was elected as Man of the Match.
"During that special play (that leads to the goal), I thought maybe I can take a chance then I saw Di Maria over there. I decided to pass the ball to him and fortunately we were able to celebrate the goal."
Switzerland could have earned an equalizer in the 120th minute, but substitute midfielder Blerim Dzemaili's close range header hit the post. The rebound was too quick for Dzemaili to respond before it bounced off his leg and went wide of the post.
Di Maria also had a chance to double their lead in the dying minutes of the match. But his long lobbing ball missed an open goal as Benaglio stayed in the Argentina's half desperate to level the score for Swiss.
"Luckily we were able to win the game in extra time," Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella told the post-match news conference. "The first half Switzerland had more chances than us, and then in the second half we were clearly superior. It was a strange game."
Switzerland concentrated on defence through the match and only left one striker in front waiting for counter attacks with the others retreating to their own half for most of the time.
Their best chance in regular time came in the 38th minute when Bayer Leverkusen forward Josip Drmic found himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Sergio Romero at the edge of the box following a fast break. However, the 21-year-old's hasty shot caused no threat since Romero caught the slow shot at ease.
The Swiss wasted another good opportunity in the 26th minute. Granit Xhaka met a reversed pass in the area after a good dribble into the box by Xherdan Shaqiri near the base line. Xhaka's shot looked like Switzerland scored but Romero blocked it out with his foot.
The Sampdoria keeper who played on loan for Monaco last season followed up with another good save, stopping Stephan Lichtsteiner's long-range rebound outside of the box.
La Albiceleste's talisman Lionel Messi, who has scored four goals in the group stage, was still in-form and proved to be the most dangerous man for the Swiss. The Barcelona superstar broke down the opponents' defending line from time to time but failed to receive enough support from his teammates.
As the Swiss tightened up their defending line in the middle area, Many of Argentina's attacks ended with cross from the side. In the 62nd minute, Gonzalo Higuain had a promising opportunity but the Napoli forward's short-range hammer was palmed off the bar by Benaglio.
Five minutes later, Higuain tried again and this time his header from the near post was off the target. Messi chested down a clear ball outside of the area but his left-foot volley shot barely shaved the bar.
Throughout the 120-minute of play, the Albiceleste side enjoyed a 61% of ball possession and was 22 of 29 in terms of shots. Switzerland had a total of 14 attempts with seven on target.
"The idea was to stop Messi by putting three or four players around him," said Ottmar Hitzfeld after the match. "We played the game the way we had to. You can see for yourself what Argentina can do when they have space."
"If we went out to attack them, maybe they would have scored more goals than France did," said the 65-year-old German, referring to Switzerland's 5-2 defeat to France in the second round of group match.
The experienced coach also announced his retirement following the elimination of Switzerland which he has been guiding since 2008.
Switzerland maintained the same lineup they used in the 3-0 final round victory against Honduras while La Albiceleste coach Alejandro Sabella fielded PSG striker Ezequiel Lavezzi to replace Man City talisman Sergio Aguero who injured his leg muscle.
Argentina will face the winner of the match between Belgium and the United States in the quarterfinals in Brasilia on Saturday.