Argentina is geared up for its FIFA World Cup Round of 16 match-up, but are Switzerland and “Alpine Messi” too much for La Albiceleste? Many analysts have cited the Argentinians’ overdependence on their star striker, and this could prove to be their undoing against a no-holds-barred Swiss team. Switzerland has a more complete team than Argentina, and should see this through to the quarterfinals against the winner of the Belgium versus United States matchup.
Some people, including another Guardian Liberty Voice writer, may feel that Switzerland’s defense is not up to the task of holding off Lionel Messi, especially given their meltdown against France; however, Les Bleus have several capable strikers, as shown by the five different French players that scored that day. Messi is just one man, and the fact that he scored four of Argentina’s six group stage goals is worrying for the South American side.
The Swiss defense was solid against Ecuador, which only managed one goal from Enner Valencia, and against Honduras, which Switzerland held scoreless in the final group match. Both of those teams are limited at the striker position, which shows the young Swiss side knows how to defend against that style of attack. The Swiss simply need to neutralize Messi in order to win, particulary since Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero has been ruled out due to injury.
Switzerland is ranked sixth overall in FIFA, and came into the 2014 World Cup as the top-seeded team for Group E, only falling to an increasingly impressive French side. When the Swiss’ chances of advancement looked in doubt, Ottmar Hitzfield’s side came out and decimated Honduras to the tune of a Xherdan Shaqiri hat trick.
Shaqiri has been dubbed the “Alpine Messi” for his incredible goal-scoring abilities. The Bayern Munich midfielder was also called the “best young player” in Switzerland by Coach Hitzfield and won the 2012 Swiss Golden Player Award. At only 22 years old, Shaqiri has taken the Swiss football world by storm, and, with his three goals against Honduras, “Alpine Messi” is part of a Switzerland side that will prove to be too much for the Argentinians in the 2014 World Cup Round of 16.
Hitzfield has built and impressive young squad for this tournament, including Granit Xhaka, the Borussia Mönchengladbach midfielder whom the Swiss coach has compared to Bastian Schweinsteiger of the German national team. Rumors are even connecting Xhaka with English club Manchester United, though the 21 year old will need to curb his attitude and public relations problems.
Switzerland also has a good amount of depth on its bench, as evidenced by the performances of Admir Mehmedi, Haris Seferović, and Blerim Džemaili, who each found the goal after subbing in late in group matches. Mehmedi has played so impressively that Hitzfield has slated him to start against Argentina. The Swiss also have starting striker Josip Drmić, the 21-year-old Bayer Leverkusen forward. Drmić assisted two of Shaqiri’s goals against Honduras, and the two youngsters have developed an attacking system that the Argentinian defense will be hard-pressed to stop.
The Swiss team will prove too much for Argentina, and will win their World Cup Round of 16 match, as Switzerland has a more well-rounded, complete team with depth on the bench, while La Albiceleste relies much too heavily on the (admittedly superior) talents of Lionel Messi. They will face either Belgium or the U.S., which will be decided later Tuesday afternoon.
Commentary by Christina Jones
Read more Guardian Liberty Voice Coverage on the FIFA World Cup Round of 16