Sao Paulo: Argentina’s Lionel Messi picked up his fourth Man of the Match Award in a row against Switzerland on Tuesday but he admitted the prize was barely deserved in a World Cup last-16 game was marked more by collective effort than individual brilliance.
“I don’t know whether I deserved this one or not but what is important is that we move on to the next stage which is what we wanted,” Messi told reporters after team’s 1-0 extra-time win.
“It was not an easy match and it’s been that way throughout the World Cup. What is important is that we won.”
Messi was effectively shackled by a superb Swiss defence and had few chances to show the kind of form that won him four world player of the year awards in a row between 2009 and 2012.
But when he did get a chance to run, his contribution was decisive. With two minutes remaining in extra time he laid the ball off for winger Angel Di Maria to stroke the winner past Diego Benaglio.
“During that special play, a little bit of everything went through my head,” said a smiling Messi.
“I thought maybe I should take a chance, then I saw Angel over there and I decided to pass the chance to him and fortunately we are able to celebrate.”
Messi won Man-of-the-Match awards in Argentina’s three group games against Bosnia, Iran and Nigeria and scored four of Argentina’s six goals.
But he admitted the Swiss gave him and his teammates a scare at the Corinthians arena.
“I was nervous at times just like anyone else because we couldn’t score a goal and any mistake could have put us out, minutes were going by and we didn’t want penalties,” he said.
“We wanted to define the game in extra-time.”
When asked how he felt with the clock running down, he replied: “Suffering, suffering, that’s what we felt. We know will go through times like this. That’s football. We had luck on our side and we have to take advantage of it and to move on.
Meanwhile, Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella congratulated his team on their tactical discipline and declared the win “well-deserved.”
“It was a game that we deserved to win in 90 minutes,” Sabella told reporters. “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.” (AGENCIES)