Today’s summary of the Round of 16 matches at the FIFA World Cup for Wednesday, July 2 in Brazil.
Argentina scrape through against the Swiss
Argentina and Switzerland had to go to extra-time for the match to be settled at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo with the Argentines running out 1-0 victors.
For the first time in Brazil, it was not Argentina’s superstar Lionel Messi who scored the winner, although he did play the pass into the path of Real Madrid winger Angel di Maria who slotted the ball home in the dying stages of the extra-time period, sending Argentina to the final eight while Switzerland can leave proud after a valiant performance against one of the tournament favourites.
The statistics do not lie. Argentina dominated the share of the ball accumulating 68 per cent of possession and producing 22 shots on target, forcing a total of 20 saves from Swiss custodian Diego Benaglio. However Switzerland posed a threat to Argentina and had some of the better chances most notably through striker Josip Drmic, who had a one-on-one with Sergio Romero only to hit a tame effort to the awaiting Argentine keeper. Swiss talisman Xherdan Shaqiri played another stand-out game but was too isolated to change the course of the match.
This is the fourth game where Argentina have won with a single goal margin and is a positive and negative omen heading into the latter stages of the World Cup. It shows the Argentines can grind a win if needed, but coach Alejandro Sabella will be wanting his side to be clinically ruthless in front of goal, considering the vast array of attacking options they possess.
Belgium beat Howard
Belgium required extra-time to see off the resilient USA and outstanding American keeper advancing to the final eight with a 2-1 victory at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador. It was substitute Romelu Lukaku who broke the tie, coming on for youngster Divock Origi at the beginning of extra-time. It took the big Belgian striker only three minutes to set up midfielder Kevin De Bruyne before Lukaku seemingly sealed the victory with a powerful near-post strike past a despairing Tim Howard. The American resistance came-forth once more as the USA pulled one back in the second-half of extra-time through teenager Julian Green, in a half which the Americans controlled it only resulted as a consolation. USA shot-stopper Howard performed a master-class, the New Jersey born custodian withstood 38 shots of with 27 on target forcing Howard to make 18 saves. This is not a first for Howard as the Everton glove-man has been a brick-wall for the USA producing quality in every match. Unfortunately for the States Howard’s heroics were not paralleled up the other end, and the USA only managed nine shots on target; three of which can be regarded as the best chances of the game, most blatantly via substitute striker Chris Wondolowski who blasted over the bar from five out. Belgium’s wastefulness up-front was rather baffling, the class acts of Origi, Kevin Mirallas and Eden Hazard all contributed. Coach Marc Wilmots will have cause for concern heading into the latter stages and coming across higher quality opponents who will not be so toothless. – Jake O’Brien
Top photo of Angel di Maria from Oregan Ducks Soccer’s Twitter page.