Messi hails Argentina team spirit after Swiss scare

2014-07-02 00:16

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Argentina's Lionel Messi picked up his fourth man of the match award in a row against Switzerland but he admitted the prize was barely deserved in a World Cup last-16 game marked more by collective effort than individual brilliance.

"I don't know whether I deserved this one or not but what is important is that we move on to the next stage which is what we wanted," Messi told reporters after the team's 1-0 extra-time win yesterday.

"It was not an easy match and it's been that way throughout the World Cup. What is important is that we won."

Messi was effectively shackled by a superb Swiss defence and had few chances to show the kind of form that won him four world player of the year awards in a row between 2009 and 2012.

But when he did get a chance to run, his contribution was decisive. With two minutes remaining in extra time he laid the ball off for winger Angel Di Maria to stroke the winner past Diego Benaglio.

"During that special play, a little bit of everything went through my head," said a smiling Messi.

"I thought maybe I should take a chance, then I saw Angel over there and I decided to pass the chance to him and fortunately we are able to celebrate."

Messi won man-of-the-match awards in Argentina's three group games against Bosnia, Iran and Nigeria and scored four of Argentina's six goals.

But he admitted the Swiss gave him and his team mates a scare at the Corinthians arena.

"I was nervous at times just like anyone else because we couldn't score a goal and any mistake could have put us out, minutes were going by and we didn't want penalties," he said.

"We wanted to define the game in extra time."

When asked how he felt with the clock running down, he replied: "Suffering, suffering, that's what we felt. We know we will go through times like this. That's football. We had luck on our side and we have to take advantage of it and to move on.

"We know that all matches will be on equal footing. You win the match because of minor details. It's a World Cup and when you are here you don't have an easy opponent."

Argentina face Belgium in the quarterfinals.

Belgium hung on to defeat the United States in another heart-stopping period of extra time.

They took a 2-0 extra-time lead through Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku but, after Julian Green pulled one back, they had to survive an extraordinary end-to-end finale as the US threatened an equaliser before winning 2-1.

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