BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) — Having relied on Lionel Messi for most of its goals so far at this World Cup, Argentina is planning to find new ways of scoring in its second-round match against Switzerland on Tuesday.
Messi carried Argentina through the group stage, scoring four of its goals. The other two came from an own goal and left back Marcos Rojo.
With Sergio Aguero missing Tuesday’s match because of a left thigh injury, the Group F winners are looking to Ezequiel Lavezzi to step in — a challenge that assistant coach Claudio Gugnali said the Paris Saint-Germain forward is ready for.
“He’s a very powerful player and is in a great moment,” Gugnali said. “He finished his club season very well. He has been asking to be on the pitch since he came (to Brazil). I don’t have any doubts that he will know how to take advantage of his opportunities.”
Lavezzi usually attacks down the wings, but also drops back to work in partnership with Argentina’s midfielders. The team will have to adapt its tactical formation a bit if Lavezzi starts.
Argentina is also wary of Switzerland’s attack and will have to shore up its shaky defense to deal with threats that include winger Xherdan Shaqiri, who scored a hat trick against Honduras in the final Group E match.
“Switzerland works very well on the flanks and attacks down the wings,” Gugnali said. “It’s going to be a very intense match.”
Switzerland also beat Ecuador in the group stage, but was overrun by France in a 5-2 defeat. For Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, the team’s qualification for the second round meant postponing his possible retirement. The German veteran, a two-time Champions League winner as a coach, has said this tournament will be his last.
Goalkeeper Diego Benaglio knows that beating Argentina will demand complete concentration by his teammates.
“We must remain highly focused, very disciplined, maintain our compactness, act extremely carefully,” Benaglio said. “The defensive work doesn’t begin with the defenders. Our attacker will be the first defender.”
Argentina is not taking anything for granted and won’t expect to roll over Switzerland in Sao Paulo.
“Everybody said we would score loads of goals in the group stage and it’s clear that didn’t happen,” midfielder Maxi Rodriguez said. “Our mentality is always the same: at a World Cup you have to be focused 100 percent of the time. It’s true that big teams are still left on the way, but if you’re not concentrated any team can beat you.”