The final day of the last 16 phase of the competition is upon us, and the first of two games today is between Argentina and Switzerland .
The game takes place at the Stadium Arena de Sao Paulo. Argentina completed the group stages as expected, winning all three games in a favourable draw that saw them grouped with Iran, Nigeria and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The manager, Alejandro Sabella has started with the same back four in the last two games, and may well start again, despite them being far from convincing. Their midfield is also lacking in some respects when it comes to creativity.
With no shortage of attacking options, the manager of La Albiceleste has to decide who he should select out of Aguero/Higuan/Lavezzi/Messi. Obviously Messi will start, but with Higuan and Aguero looking a little out of sorts, perhaps Lavezzi deserves his first start of this World Cup campaign. If this happens, it is likely the front three will consist of Messi, Higuan and Lavezzi, with Aguero the most likely to drop to the bench.
Switzerland are the underdogs coming in to this fixture, and they also have to deal with suspensions to Gavranovic and Von Bergen. This means the Aston Villa new man Philippe Senderos and Basel’s Fabian Schar could step in.
Argentina (4-3-3): Romero; Zabaleta, Fernandez, Garay, Rojo; Gago, Mascherano, di Maria; Messi, Higuain, Lavezzi.
Switzerland (4-2-3-1): Benaglio; Lichtsteiner, Djourou, Schar, R. Rodriguez; Inler, Behrami; Shaqiri, Xhaka, Mehmedi; Drmic.
On paper, the game is very one sided, with Argentina far superior. However, as they found out against Nigeria in their final group game, they can’t afford to let complacency creep in to their game. Switzerland won two of their group games and with players with quality such as Bayern’s Shaqiri along with the reliability of Inler, Behrami and Lichtsteiner, they have the potential to cause problems. The won two of their three games, but were fortunate to beat Ecuador with a last gasp winner, and their game against France saw them 5-0 down before two late consolation goals.
They have only played each other twice in the last 50 years, so there isn’t much to get from it. Argentina won 2-0 in the 1966 World Cup, and 5-0 in a friendly in 1980. I am expecting the quality of Argentina to shine through and guide them to a relatively comfortable victory against a Swiss side managed by Hitzfeld who has stated he will be retiring after the competition.