Brazil: Lionel Messi rescued Argentina once more to help sink Switzerland as the United States’ fairytale World Cup run came to an end against Belgium on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).
Messi set up the winner for Angel Di Maria two minutes from the end of extra-time to give the South Americans a 1-0 win against the Swiss.
The Argentines will now face Belgium in the quarterfinals in Brasilia on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) after they defeated the United States 2-1 after another extra-time duel.
A phenomenal goalkeeping performance from Tim Howard kept the Belgians at bay to leave the game scoreless after 90 minutes.
But the introduction of England-based forward Romelu Lukaku tipped the game in Belgium’s favor.
The powerful Chelsea striker’s run set up the first for Kevin De Bruyne on 93 minutes, before he then latched on to a long ball and thumped an unstoppable shot past Howard for the second.
That appeared to have settled the game but Jurgen Klinsmann’s Americans came roaring back.
A superb volleyed goal from 19-year-old substitute Julian Green on 107 minutes set up a frantic finale.
Only a fantastic save by Thibaut Courtois denied Clint Dempsey what would have been a wonderfully worked equalizer from a quick free kick as Belgium hung on.
The victory takes Belgium into their first World Cup quarterfinals for 28 years, when they reached the last four in Mexico only to be knocked out by Diego Maradona’s Argentina.
Earlier, Argentina captain Messi bagged his fourth man-of-the-match award in as many games after saving his team once more at Sao Paulo’s Corinthians Arena.
The victories for Argentina and Belgium meant that all eight winners of the first round groups reached the quarterfinals for the first time.
Off the pitch, convicted match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal denied any involvement in predicting the result of the Croatia-Cameroon group game, which is now being investigated by the African country’s federation.
Perumal said in a statement he made an “informal assessment” of the Croatia-Cameroon Group A game after the match. German magazine Der Spiegel, which reported Perumal’s comments, said he made them before the match.
The game finished 4-0 and midfielder Alex Song was sent off in the first half.
The Cameroon Football Federation said its ethics commission is investigating the allegations. FIFA said it would not comment on the allegations because it did not want to influence the Cameroon inquiry.