Switzerland (2-1-0) vs. Argentina (3-0-0), Noon (ET)
07/01/2014 8:13 AM
07/01/2014 8:13 AM
Sao Paulo, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Switzerland enters its round of 16 match against Argentina at the Arena de Sao Paulo on Tuesday as a sizeable underdog, but according to Swiss defender Fabian Schar, he wouldn't have it any other way.
"We have reached our main goal and we can now play without pressure," Schar said after his side advanced to the knockout round for the second time in its last three World Cup appearances. "We are clearly the underdogs against Argentina and we want to use the opportunity."
The Swiss have had a very up-and-down time at the World Cup to this point, securing three valuable points in the opener with a last-gasp 2-1 win over Ecuador thanks to Haris Seferovic, while the team was shredded in a 5-2 defeat to France.
But with a place in the second round on the line, Xherdan Shaqiri netted a hat trick in a 3-0 win over Honduras, putting his side through and giving them a chance to pull the upset over heavily-favored Argentina.
As one of the pre-tournament favorites, Argentina hasn't exactly dazzled in its three group-stage matches, but Alejandro Sabella's side was able to win each of them, even if it was by only one goal apiece.
Lionel Messi figured to be one of the most scrutinized players in Brazil having scored just once in his previous eight World Cup appearances, and so far the Barcelona man has delivered in a big way.
Messi has carried Argentina through the first three games, scoring four of his team's six goals to take them to the top of Group F.
"Messi's playing an amazing World Cup, that's what everybody expected," Sabella said.
"I expected it, so did his colleagues and so did all Argentinians in general. So of course we're happy, we're happy for the team and for him as well. He's an important player for us."
One of the six goals scored by Argentina was an own goal, and the other was tallied by defender Marcos Rojo, which is an indication that supporting attackers like Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Ezequiel Lavezzi must pick up their level of play.
Argentina was able to get through the group stage relying mainly on Messi, but La Albiceleste must get more from the other attackers now that we are into the second round.
Aguero won't be available for Tuesday's match after injuring his thigh in the last game against Nigeria, meaning that Sabella will likely bring Lavezzi into the starting 11 to play along with Messi and Higuain.
The Swiss came to Brazil having allowed just one goal in their last seven World Cup matches, but after giving away six in their first two games, a clean sheet in the last outing against Honduras should be a bit of a boost to a usually stout unit.
"We've always had a reputation as a team that defends well, as a group, so it's vital that we recapture that defensive solidity," said Swiss defender Johan Djourou. "If we can manage that, anything is possible."
Switzerland must be strong at the back to contain Messi, and if they are able to keep the star forward under wraps, anything may be possible for the underdogs from Europe.