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Messi strength made Messi weakness

It was too much to take for Argentine fans. No match is easy and no opponents are weak in a World Cup. Yet, it may seem unfair for Argentine fans to go through a nerve-wracking, nail-biting win once more against a not-so-fancied opponent.

Lionel Messi looks on during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Argentina and Switzerland at The Arena de Sao Paulo on July 01, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Photo: Getty Images
Lionel Messi looks on during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Argentina and Switzerland at The Arena de Sao Paulo on July 01, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Photo: Getty Images

The game came so close to penalty kicks! Switzerland missed twice in the final minutes of extra time after the Argentina goal, including Blerim Dzemaili hitting the post from point blank range.

Argentina were lucky indeed to get away with a nervy, unconvincing 1-0 win when midfielder Angel Di Maria placed a Lionel Messi pass  into the far corner with his left foot. A Messi-Di Maria duet ended in the all important goal. It was indeed a good duet, but Argentina needed many.

Argentina's midfielder Angel Di Maria celebrates after scoring the 1-0 during a Round of 16 football match between Argentina and Switzerland at Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on July 1, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Argentina's midfielder Angel Di Maria celebrates after scoring the 1-0 during a Round of 16 football match between Argentina and Switzerland at Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on July 1, 2014. Photo: Getty Images

The match is an eye-opener for Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella. His strength is also his weakness. Coaches in the opposite camps are trying with some success to exploit his Messi strength as his Messi weakness. When a coach has a player like Messi in hand, it's only natural for him to let the team revolve round him. Argentina played so far centring on the Fifa's four-time world player of the year.

So, strategy for Sabella's rivals is pretty simple: Neutralise Messi to neutralise Argentina. Luckily for Argentina, Messi is a player of unbelievable ability. With some mysterious sways, he, at times, could free himself from the defence shackles placed around him to score in all but the Swiss match.   

Lionel Messi of Argentina controls the ball against Josip Drmic (L), Fabian Schar (2nd L), Stephan Lichtsteiner (2nd R) and Ricardo Rodriguez of Switzerland during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Argentina and Switzerland. Photo: Getty Images
Lionel Messi of Argentina controls the ball against Josip Drmic (L), Fabian Schar (2nd L), Stephan Lichtsteiner (2nd R) and Ricardo Rodriguez of Switzerland during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Argentina and Switzerland. Photo: Getty Images

Switzerland players could implement their Messi plan quite successfully. Messi was always manned at least by three players. The lone goal, however, resulted from over-manning of Messi in the 118th minute of the game. The entire Swiss defence swarmed Messi, eventually giving Di Maria a little more space for his shot.

But that may not happen in all the matches Argentina play. Sabella has two days in hand to devise a counter strategy before his men face Belgium in the quarterfinal.

Argentina's coach Alejandro Sabella (C-R, white cap) talks to his players during a training session at 'Cidade do Galo', the Argentinean team's base camp in Vespasiano, near Belo Horizonte, on June 28, 2014 during the 2014 FIFA Football World Cup in Brazil. Photo: Getty Images
Argentina's coach Alejandro Sabella (C-R, white cap) talks to his players during a training session at 'Cidade do Galo', the Argentinean team's base camp in Vespasiano, near Belo Horizonte, on June 28, 2014 during the 2014 FIFA Football World Cup in Brazil. Photo: Getty Images

The Argentine teams of 1986 and 1990 rallied round Diego Maradona, almost identically. Carlos Bilardo lived up to his reputation in 1986 as one of the shrewdest coaches in the world, inspiring Argentina to their Cup glory.

Bilardo masterfully exploited opponents' over-attention on Maradona by dropping the legend down in the midfield and pushing midfielder Batista up a little as his shield. Maradona himself scored and, when he couldn't, he made Burruchaga and Valdano score.

We haven't seen Messi doing anything like that yet. It may happen in the next match.

Published: 3:10 pm Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Last modified: 9:53 pm Wednesday, July 02, 2014

TAGS: Switzerland world cup fifa Lionel Messi Alejandro Sabella Argentine Brazil14 Di Maria Carlos Bilardo Batista

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