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I feared Swiss defeat –Messi

Lionel Messi said he feared Argentina would be knocked out of the World Cup before he set up Angel Di Maria’s late extra-time winner against Switzerland in the last of 16 on Tuesday, BBC Sport reports.

Di Maria fired in Messi’s pass to clinch a 1-0 win, ending stubborn Swiss resistance and setting up a quarter-final tie against Belgium.

“I was nervous towards the end because we couldn’t score and any mistake could have knocked us out,” said Messi, 27.

“The minutes were passing and we didn’t want the match to go to penalties.”

Two-time champions Argentina dominated possession against the Swiss but were unable to break through until Di Maria scored in the 118th minute.

“We were suffering but had a special play,” added Argentina captain Messi, Barcelona’s four-time World Player of the Year.

Defeat marked the end of Switzerland boss Ottmar Hitzfeld’s managerial career. The 65-year-old, who discovered shortly before the match that his brother had died, has retired.

Switzerland defender Blerim Dzemaili headed against the Argentina post then prodded wide after Di Maria’s strike.

But Real Madrid winger Di Maria said victory was “more than deserved”.

“It wasn’t me, the heroes are 23 players and the technical staff,” the 26-year-old added. “We gave our lives, our souls.”

Argentina had 29 shots over the 120 minutes, while the Swiss did not manage an effort on target after the 50th minute.

Argentina keeper Sergio Romero saved in quick succession from Granit Xhaka and Stephan Lichtsteiner, before denying Josip Drmic shortly afterwards.

“It was a game that we deserved to win in 90 minutes,” said Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella.

“It was even during a first half in which they had two clear chances to score, but in the second half we were clearly superior. We had five or six shots at goal and, in extra time, we also had more chances.”

German Hitzfeld, a two-time World Coach of the Year won 19 major club trophies for Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Grasshoppers, before taking charge of the Swiss national team in 2008.

“I have a quiet life in front of me,” he said.

“I was very fortunate to coach some marvellous clubs and the Swiss national team. It has been a great honour and I am proud to say goodbye to the Swiss team with my heart full of emotions.”

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