So Lionel Messi has finally come good at a World Cup. It has taken eight years for the world’s best player to stamp his class in football’s biggest stage, but the Barcelona forward and 4-time World Player of the year has added 4 goals to his only previous World Cup goal against Serbia and Montenegro eight years back. Messi opened the scoring against Nigeria in their final group stage match with a close range effort after Angel Di Maria’s shot was saved by the keeper, and added his second with a sumptuous free-kick as Argentina secured a 3-2 victory.
While Messi has achieved every everything there is to achieve at club level, his international career has been anything but as perfect as his record for Barcelona. Messi’s stuttering international career has seen him fail to score at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and fail to inspire Argentina to victory in the Copa America in 2011, the only real blemishes in what has been a flawless career fitting of his talent. But Messi likes scoring against the Swiss – his first ever international hattrick was against Switzerland in a friendly two years ago. So while the eyes of the world will be firmly on this Barcelona superstar, there is another man from Switzerland looking to carve a niche for himself.
Xherdan Shaqiri came good when his nation most needed their best player to. He scored a hattrick against Honduras as the Swiss secured their progress to the Round of 16 following the disappointment of a 5-2 drubbing at the hands of the French. The comparisons between Shaqiri and Messi are inevitable – both left footed, almost the same height, and have a similarly low center of gravity which makes them such an elusive force on the football field as they wriggle their way past defenders. While the 22-year old Bayern Munich forward still has a mountain to climb to attain Messi like status in the footballing fraternity, there is little doubt that Shaqiri is a top player in his own right and will be a thorn in the flesh for an Argentinian defense that have looked far from convincing.
Alejandro Sabella will be concerned over the fitness of Manchester City hitman Sergio Aguero and PSG forward Ezequiel Lavezzi is likely to take his place in a devastating forward line comprising Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain.
The Swiss, on the other hand, are expected to remain unchanged from the 3-0 win over Honduras, and will have their task cut out to contain an in-form Lionel Messi.
Argentina: Romero, Zabaleta, Garay, Fernandez, Rojo, Gago, Mascherano, Di Maria, Lavezzi, Messi, Higuain
Switzerland: Benaglio, Lichtsteiner, Inler, Xhaka, Behrami, Rodriguez, Mehmedi, Drmic, Djourou, Schaer, Shaqiri
Argentina are one of the favorites to go all the way in Brazil, and with Lionel Messi in red hot form, the Swiss will have their backs to the wall in this one. Can a defense which leaked five against France contain Lionel Messi and co.? Argentina win it comfortably for me! I’d go for a 3-1 win!
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