ARG-SUI snoozer finished by Di Maria

Argentina's Angel Di Maria celebrates scoring against Switzerland during extra time in their 2014...

Argentina's Angel Di Maria celebrates scoring against Switzerland during extra time in their 2014 World Cup round of 16 game at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo July 1, 2014. (REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:50 PM ET

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - It’s difficult to believe Argentina will go much further in this World Cup.

It’s something that’s been said after every game Argentina has played in Brazil.

But as long as it has Lionel Messi, it always has a chance.

Messi and Angel Di Maria combined Tuesday to give their team at least one more game.

Messi found Di Maria for a late goal in extra time to give Argentina a 1-0 win over Switzerland.

It was a dreadful game, but Argentina lives yet again at the death.

Earlier in this tournament, Messi got them out of the soup against both Nigeria and Iran.

The game looked headed to penalties until Stephan Lichtsteiner lost the ball near midfield. It went to Messi, who found a lot of space to run, perhaps for the first time all game.

He slalomed to the top of the 18-yard box. His pass cut open the Swiss defence, finding Di Maria, who side-footed the ball past Swiss keeper Diego Benaglio in the 118th minute, the 28th minute of extra time.

Considering the nature of the game, it was only appropriate that Argentina almost blew it.

In the 119th minute, Swiss midfielder Blerim Dzemaili headed the ball off the post. It rebounded off his shin and missed going in by inches.

At the end of the game, while the Argentineans celebrated a victory they didn’t deserve, the Swiss were strewn all over the pitch, recognizing how close they came to eliminating the two-time world champions.

This was a tale of two games, both dreadful.

Switzerland carried the first half and Argentina had most of the best chances in the second half.

That isn’t saying very much. There was a groan heard around Brazil when people where forced to watch another 30 minutes of this dreadful stuff.

There have been questions during this World Cup about when Argentina was going to show their class. The world still waits.

It’s been Messi, and then everyone else on the Argentine team. He’s done the most to save his nation from embarrassment.

“We played the game we had to play, but you can see for yourself what Argentina can do when they have space,” Swiss coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said.

“If we’d gone out and attacked them, then maybe they would have scored more goals than France did. The idea was to stop Messi by putting three or four players on him.”

Against the Swiss, Messi finally had some help from Di Maria.

“The main thing is that we’re through,” Messi said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Time was going by and we didn’t want to go to penalties.

“As for the goal, my first thought was to go for it myself, but then I saw Di Maria appear and I decided to play him in. Fortunately, he was able to put it away. That’s football and today luck was on our side. We have to make the most of it and keep on going.”

Great players find ways to make their team win. It’s how they are judged through history.

But Messi really has little to work with. Argentina is a team of sloggers, players with little imagination.

It must be frustrating to see so many opportunities die when the ball leaves Messi’s feet.

It is akin to asking Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel using a spray gun. It wouldn’t work for Michelangelo, and this team doesn’t work for Messi.

The only other player that showed relative life and imagination against the Swiss was Di Maria.

Of all the Round of 16 games, this had the least to offer.

When Messi came into this World Cup, there was much talk about his legacy. The feeling was Messi would have to win a World Cup to be considered amongst the best players ever.

He’s proven so far in Brazil that he is among the best ever.

But what of his team?

Argentina has benefitted from a weak group and one of the lesser knockout round opponents.

They’ve already proven something: Without Messi they are dead.

It just might take one more game to prove it.

*Argentina goal GIF via @myregularface of GIFgoldmine.com

TATTOO FOR THE AGES

Most people have a tattoo emblazoned on their body in order to remember the good things, the things they love.

Chilean striker Mauricio Pinilla decided to put a sizable tattoo on his back to remind him of something that devastated him. Pinilla’s team was eliminated in kicks from the penalty spot by Brazil.

Minutes before, Pinilla thought he’s won the lottery. With time almost done in the Game of 16, he hammered a shot off the Brazilian crossbar, cleanly beating goaltender Julio Cesar.

Minutes after that, Pinilla was one of the players who missed a spot kick as Brazil went on in the World Cup and Chile went home.

Instead of wanting to forget the incident, Pinilla decided he wanted it with him all permanently.

The tattoo on his back shows Pinilla taking the shot, and the ball smashing off the bar past a diving Cesar. It looks religious-like.

The inscription reads “One centimetre from glory.”


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