Argentina’s forward and captain Lionel Messi (left) and Algentina’s midfielder Angel Di Maria celebrate after scoring their only goal in their 1-0 win over Switzerland
Argentina’s Lionel Messi picked up his fourth man of the match award in a row against Switzerland on Tuesday but he admitted the prize was barely deserved in a World Cup last-16 game was marked more by collective effort than individual brilliance.
“I don’t know whether I deserved this one or not but what is important is that we move on to the next stage which is what we wanted,” Messi told reporters after team’s 1-0 extra-time win.
“It was not an easy match and it’s been that way throughout the World Cup. What is important is that we won.”
Messi was effectively shackled by a superb Swiss defence and had few chances to show the kind of form that won him four world players of the year awards in a row between 2009 and 2012.
But when he did get a chance to run, his contribution was decisive. With two minutes remaining in extra time he laid the ball off for winger Angel Di Maria to stroke the winner past Diego Benaglio.
“During that special play, a little bit of everything went through my head,” said a smiling Messi.
“I thought maybe I should take a chance, then I saw Angel over there and I decided to pass the chance to him and fortunately we are able to celebrate.”
Messi won man-of-the-match awards in Argentina’s three group games against Bosnia, Iran and Nigeria and scored four of Argentina’s six goals.
But he admitted the Swiss gave him and his teammates a scare at the Corinthians arena.
“I was nervous at times just like anyone else because we couldn’t score a goal and any mistake could have put us out, minutes were going by and we didn’t want penalties,” he said.
“We wanted to define the game in extra time.”
When asked how he felt with the clock running down, he replied: “Suffering, suffering, that’s what we felt. We know will go through times like this. That’s football. We had luck on our side and we have to take advantage of it and to move on.
“We know that all matches will be on equal footing. You win the match because of minor details. It’s a World Cup and when you are here you don’t have an easy opponent.”
Argentina faces the winners of the Belgium vs United States match in the quarterfinals.