‘You have to win games on the minor details’

Messi relieved as Argentina clear tricky Swiss hurdle

Argentina’s  Lionel Messi  in action during the  round of 16 match against  Switzerland at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Photo: Diego Azubel/EPA

Argentina’s Lionel Messi in action during the round of 16 match against Switzerland at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Photo: Diego Azubel/EPA

Wed, Jul 2, 2014, 06:00

Lionel Messi admitted to nerves and “suffering” through his side’s hard fought game against Switzerland in São Paulo.

“There were times when I was nervous because we could not score a goal and any mistake could leave us out of the World Cup, ” he admitted after accepting his fourth man of the match award of the tournament.

“The minutes were going past and we did not want penalties, we wanted to end it in extra time so I thought maybe I should take a chance,” he said when describing his assist for Angel di María’s 178th minute goal.

“We had the luck and now we move on,” he said

He denied Argentina are playing below their potential after another unconvincing display in which their its glittering attack failed to impose themselves on the game.

“We know that in these matches all the sides will be on an equal footing. You have to win games on the minor details. Important teams that no-one expected have already gone out and others that no-one expected are still here. This is a World Cup. ”

His coach Alejandro Sabella also rebutted any criticism saying his team deserved to win over the 90 minutes. “In the first half they had two chances but in the second half we had five or six and we had more in extra time so I think victory is deserved and that we should have achieved it in normal time.”

Despite a display that was at times disjointed, Sabella was unstinting in his praise for his players. “I am self-critical as a person. . .But today we had a wonderful performance. The team played a very intelligent match.”

Explaining Switzerland’s late defeat, German coach Ottmar Hitzfeld admitted that he had sought to double mark the Argentine playmaker but “we know that Messi can in one second decide a match”.

He refused to take any questions about the death of his older brother from cancer overnight just before what was his last game as a manager. He confirmed his retirement to work as a television commentator.

Quiet life

“Now I will not lose football matches so I will have a quiet life,” said the former Champions League winner at his post-match press conference. He remembered his last gasp defeat against Manchester United in the Barcelona final in that tournament in 1999 in explaining why he walked onto the pitch at the end of the game.

“I went out to congratulate my players,” he said. “I think Swiss football has won over many sympathisers around the world today. I congratulate Argentina but we made life very tough for them . . they are a great team.”

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