Angel di Maria made up for a poor display by firing Argentina into the FIFA World Cup last eight with a 1-0 extra-time win over Switzerland.
Not for the first time this tournament, Alejandro Sabella’s men struggled to make their presence felt in attack for large spells, with the Real Madrid midfielder guilty of conceding possession on a number of occasions.
However, Di Maria popped up with just two minutes of extra time remaining to sweep home after some good work by Lionel Messi.
Substitute Blerim Dzemaili headed against the post for Switzerland before time was up, and should have done better with the rebound.
The result sets up a last-eight meeting for Argentina with Belgium or the United States in Brasilia, and was ultimately harsh on a Switzerland side who defended resolutely in what will now prove to have been Ottmar Hitzfeld’s final game in charge before retiring.
Argentina were forced into one change, with Ezequiel Lavezzi coming in for injured striker Sergio Aguero, while Switzerland stuck with the same XI that triumphed 3-0 over Honduras in their closing Group E fixture.
Xherdan Shaqiri ran riot with three goals in that convincing victory, but chances were few and far between for both sides in the opening stages in Sao Paulo – a Gonzalo Higuain header that comfortably cleared the crossbar was as close as either came to hitting the target inside the first 25 minutes.
Switzerland injected some life into an otherwise dormant half in the 28th minute when Granit Xhaka and Stephan Lichsteiner were both denied by Sergio Romero in the Argentina goal, before Lavezzi called Diego Benaglio into action at the other end with his team’s first accurate effort moments later.