Swiss prepare for Messi test, U.S. face Belgium

Tue Jul 1, 2014 2:06am EDT
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By Peter Rutherford

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Lionel Messi has been the key to Argentina's perfect start at the World Cup, scoring four of their six goals in three straight group wins, and the South Americans hope his blistering form continues when they face Switzerland in the last 16 on Tuesday.

Also battling for a place in the quarter-finals are the United States and Belgium, who arrived as one of the favorites to lift the trophy but have not yet fired on all cylinders.

Although Argentina have yet to reach the heights many expected of them in Brazil, Messi has been on a different planet, electrifying crowds and banishing memories of the goal drought he endured in South Africa four years ago.

Fellow forward Sergio Aguero is a major doubt after picking up an injury against Nigeria in their final group game, however, and should he miss out manager Alejandro Sabella may opt for the versatile Ezequiel Lavezzi.

Sabella, though, was playing his cards close to his chest on the eve of the match in Sao Paulo.

"In case Lavezzi plays he can play in two different positions," he told reporters. "But I am telling you, the line-up is not decided yet."

Switzerland hope Xherdan Shaqiri, dubbed the 'Alpine Messi' for his impish skills, will provide the key to beating Argentina for the first time.

The bustling little forward has been in top form for the Swiss, stealing the show with a hat-trick in a 3-0 win over Honduras that sealed their spot in the last 16.   Continued...

Argentina's national soccer team star Lionel Messi (C ) controls the ball  amongst his team mates during their last training session, at the arena di Corinthians stadium in Sao Paulo June 30, 2014, one day before their round of 16 2014 World Cup soccer match against Switzerland on July 1.  REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach