Argentina saved by an Angel

Critics less than impressed by Argentina as they stumbled into the quarter-finals yesterday

Angel di Maria celebrates scoring Argentina’s  winning goal against Switzerland. Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Angel di Maria celebrates scoring Argentina’s winning goal against Switzerland. Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Wed, Jul 2, 2014, 12:41

After an agonising afternoon that put an entire nation through the wringer ‘Heart Attack’ was Olé’s front page summary of Argentina’s 1-0 extra-time win over Switzerland yesterday in São Paulo.

“This time it wasn’t God - an Angel appeared,” was El Grafico joking referring to Messi and Angel di María who scored the game’s only goal just as it looked to be heading to penalties.

All over Argentina there is concern about the poor display by the country’s national team that is best summed up by Diego Maradona.

“We’re not taking off,” he said on his World Cup television programme after the match. “We have a team to play better but we are suffering.

“We have the players to produce another class of football. We can’t just be Sporting Messi. He can do it a couple of times but if the kid does not manage it we cannot blame him for an Argentine disaster.”

Once again there is recognition of the heavy dependence on Lionel Messi. “Until now Lionel Messi has carried this team on his shoulders and got it through,” writes Miguel Ángel Vicente in Clarín. “Can he do it in the games that remain? For the selección the moment has arrived to demonstrate what it is about. If it is strong enough from head to foot to face the real World Cup with starts now.”

The unconvincing football means despite the win there are calls for coach Alejandro Sabella to change the team. Maradona called for Gonzalo Higuaín to be rested for a match but others facing calls to be dropped include Fernando Gago and Ezequiel Lavezzi, only handed a starting place against Switzerland because of the injury to Sergio Agüero.

“The team played badly. Very badly. It would be too easy to focus on the result and stick to the agonising triumph against Switzerland and passage to the quarters. But like this you do not win World Cups,” argues Christian Leblebidjian in La Nacion. “The positive is there is still time to correct mistakes . . . Today the team sent signals to Alejandro Sabella that he must change.”

But amid all the concern about performance there are those who find reasons for hope. “Perhaps it is too early to say that yesterday was accompanied by the luck of champions, but it makes you think that destiny is preparing something important when the header by Dzemaili, already at the end of extra time, hit the post,” mused La Nacion’s Claudio Mauri. “It seemed a miracle, classification converted into a concrete reality.”

Another omen was quickly seized on Belgium’s 2-1 win over the USA provided Argentina with its next opponent. “Just like 1986, when Maradona removed them from his path to the title,” noted the Buenos Aires daily Pagina/12.

With the tournament now enjoying a two-day break from football Brazil’s papers were again purring over the tournament’s progress with Estado noting that for the first time in the tournament’s history all the eight group winners had made it to the quarter finals, setting up a series of heavyweight clashes that get underway on Friday.

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