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MailTribune.com
  • Argentina survives Swiss challenge

  • SAO PAULO — Just as another penalty shootout was looming at the World Cup, Angel Di Maria scored deep into extra time to ensure Argentina advanced to the Cup quarterfinals with a 1-0 victory over Switzerland on Tuesday.
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  • SAO PAULO — Just as another penalty shootout was looming at the World Cup, Angel Di Maria scored deep into extra time to ensure Argentina advanced to the Cup quarterfinals with a 1-0 victory over Switzerland on Tuesday.
    Lionel Messi made a surging run toward the Switzerland area in the 118th minute and laid the ball off to Di Maria on the right.
    The winger struck a left-foot shot past diving goalkeeper Diego Benaglio, prompting the Argentine bench to jump out on the field to celebrate the goal.
    Swiss substitute Blerim Dzemaili nearly equalized in the dying seconds but his header hit the post, and the rebound bounced off his knee and just wide of the goal.
    The result at Sao Paulo's Itaquerao Stadium continued Argentina's record of scraping by with narrow wins at this World Cup.
    Di Maria said the Argentines knew from the start that there was a good chance that the game would go into extra time, like three of the six previous second-round matches.
    "We know that this could happen to us, but we gave our souls out there on the pitch, we fought with our lives for each ball and we ended up as the winners," Di Maria said.
    It was a dramatic ending to what had been a tight match, with Argentina struggling to break through Switzerland's disciplined defense.
    Granit Xhaka and Josip Drmic had clear chances to put Switzerland ahead in the first half, but after that the Swiss mostly focused on repelling Argentina's attacks and closing down space for Messi.
    "We made life very tough on them," Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said. "They managed to keep their cool. It shows Argentina has a good team."
    Hitzfeld, whose brother died at age 81 on Monday, said that the match was his last as a football coach.
    "It was a great honor working for Switzerland. I'm therefore proud to say goodbye to Switzerland with heart full of emotions," Hitzfeld said.
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