Argentina’s talisman also reveals that he got nervous as crucial seconds ticked away in the Round of 16 clash against Switzerland on Tuesday; wants team to shape up better
Sao Paulo: Lionel Messi said he was as nervous as anyone during Argentina’s “lucky” World Cup last 16 win over Switzerland on Tuesday but urged his team to make the most of their reprieve.
The captain and talisman finally prised open the Swiss defence deep into extra-time in Sao Paulo, two minutes from penalties, and picked out Angel Di Maria for the game’s only goal.
Lionel Messi. Pic/Getty Images
And he said the nail-biting win, in front of tens of thousands of Argentine fans, could stand his team in good stead later in the tournament. “Suffering, suffering that’s what I felt but now we know we can go through times like this,” said Messi.
Luck on our side
“We were lucky, we had luck on our side and now we have to take advantage of it and move on.” Argentina will now take on Belgium in the quarter-finals on Saturday as they go for their third World Cup title, on the soil of arch-rivals Brazil. The two teams had also clashed in the semi-finals of the 1986 World Cup.
“Just like everyone else, I imagine, at times I was nervous because we couldn’t score a goal and any mistake would have put us out of the World Cup,” Messi said.
“We didn’t want penalties and so we wanted to win it in extra-time.
“For the goal I thought maybe I should take a chance. And then I saw Angel on the right and I passed to him and fortunately we were able to score.” The Barcelona star was named man-of-the-match for the fourth successive time by online voters, ahead of Di Maria who had 10 shots on target — more than the entire Swiss team.
“I don’t know whether I deserve this one (award) or not but what’s important is that we’ve made it to the next stage, which is what we wanted,” Messi said. Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said: “We were nearly in a penalty shoot-out, it was just a matter of a few minutes and there was ball from midfield given to Messi in a very advantageous position.”
Speaking of Belgium, this time around, they will be hoping they cope better with the wizardry of Messi than their predecessors did with Maradona, whose double in the 2-0 defeat dashed their dreams of a first ever final appearance.