Brasilia: Argentina superstar Lionel Messi said that his side had produced their best match of the World Cup in beating Belgium 1-0 in the quarter-finals. And goalscorer Gonzalez Higuain said getting off the mark with the winning goal had been a “beautiful” moment.
“We produced a very complete match. We weren’t able to create that many chances, but they didn’t make that many clear chances either,” said Messi on Saturday.
Asked if it was Argentina’s most accomplished display of the tournament, the Barcelona forward told reporters: “I think it was. We produced a very complete match. This was our best match… We weren’t able to create that many chances, but they didn’t make that many clear chances either.”
Argentina have now won their first five matches at a World Cup finals for the first time, even though they laboured in the group phase and were criticised for a lacklustre display in their 1-0 victory over Switzerland in the last 16.
It is 24 years since Argentina last reached the semi-finals of a World Cup and Messi said the team took great pride in the feat. “This is amazing,” he said. “We knew it was going to be difficult. Argentina have gone a long time without doing this, and it was us who crossed the frontier.”
Meanwhile, Belgium coach Marc Wilmots, claimed that referees gave Messi preferential treatment and refused to book the Argentina striker when he committed a foul.
Although he declared he would not be a “cry baby”, Wilmots accused Argentina of cynical time-wasting which also went unpunished.
“Messi is the star player, the player who gives them rhythm,” Wilmots said.
“He never loses the ball. But he made three fouls and I noticed the referee never gave a foul against him. I don’t want to be a cry baby, but I noticed the referee never gives fouls against Argentina. Messi made three fouls and no yellow card. We had one foul, and a yellow card.”
Wilmots claimed Messi’s approach was part of a wider tactic by Argentina. “You have seen the experience of the Argentines,” he said.
“They can distort the rhythm. It can take them 30 seconds for a throw-in and the referee did nothing. They could break down their speed.”