Switzerland have a plan to defuse Lionel Messi

ARON HELLER
Last updated 10:14 01/07/2014
CONFIDENT: Swiss coach Ottmar Hitzfeld is looking forward to facing Lionel Messi and Argentina in the round of 16.
Reuters
CONFIDENT: Swiss coach Ottmar Hitzfeld is looking forward to facing Lionel Messi and Argentina in the round of 16.

Relevant offers

Football

Porto crush blunder-prone BATE Borisov Chelsea forced to settle for draw with Schalke 04 Athletic Bilbao held to draw by Shakhtar Donetsk Barcelona FC solid but unspectacular in opener Maribor rescue 1-1 draw against Sporting English FA moving to restrict foreign players English FA boss supports football video replays Wanderers hold FC Seoul to Korean stalemate Retooled Liverpool face battle for goal-scoring Everton eagerly await return to Europe action

Lionel Messi poses problems for every team, a fact Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld prefers to think of as an opportunity.

Messi has scored four of Argentina's six goals, steering his team to three group-stage wins.

But Hitzfeld, a two-time Champions League winner as a coach, struck a confident tone ahead of Switzerland's second-round World Cup match tomorrow morning (NZT), particularly regarding the player many consider to be the best player in the world.

''I think any defense will face problems when facing Messi and problems are there to be solved,'' he said.

''I trust my people, I trust my defence ... how to stop Messi? We will show you tomorrow how we do it.''

Under Hitzfeld, Switzlerand lost only once in 18 matches over the two years leading up to the World Cup and reached No 6 in the Fifa rankings. That earned them top seeding in Group E.

A win over Argentina would equal Switzerland's greatest World Cup achievement, putting them in the quarterfinals for the first since it hosted the tournament in 1954.

Hitzfeld, a 65-year-old German who says he will retire following the World Cup, told reporters: ''I don't think it is going to be my last match."

''We, Swiss team, have become stronger over the last two years and I'm quite interested and looking forward to this sporting highlight that we will see tomorrow,'' he said.

A team that earned a reputation for a boring brand of football in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups has reinvented itself under Hitzfeld. Its star player, Bayern Munich's Xherdan Shaqiri, has earned the nickname ''the Alpine Messi''.

The 22-year-old Shaqiri, born in Kosovo to Albanian parents, scored a hat trick to put the Swiss into knockout stages with a 3-0 win over Honduras.

''He is short, he is fast, he is mobile,'' Swiss captain Gokhan Inler said of Shaqiri.

''The good thing for us is that he can't be figured out easily.''

Switzerland also beat Ecuador 2-1 in the group stage, but was routed by France in a 5-2 defeat.

Against Argentina, the Swiss also expect an extra boost from Brazilian fans in Sao Paulo, who will likely want to see their top South American rival knocked out of the competition.

Inler said the fan support will be helpful, and vowed: ''We are ready to face a great team like Argentina.''

Ad Feedback

- AP

Special offers
Opinion poll

Who will win this year's Champions League?

Ajax

Anderlecht

APOEL

Arsenal

Athletic Bilbao

Atletico Madrid

Barcelona

Basel

BATE Borisov

Bayer Leverkusen

Bayern Munich

Benfica

Borussia Dortmund

Chelsea

CSKA Moscow

Galatasaray

Juventus

Liverpool

Ludogorets

Malmo

Manchester City

Maribor

Monaco

Olympiacos

Paris St-Germain

Porto

Real Madrid

Roma

Schalke 04

Shaktar Donetsk

Sporting CP

Zenit St Petersburg

Vote Result

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content