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WORLD CUP - Round of 16: Argentina through by the skin of their teeth

Argentina are into the quarter-finals of the 2014 FIFA World Cup after narrowly beating Switzerland 1-0 in Sao Paulo today.

Alejandro Sabella's Albiceleste were forced to wait until deep into extra-time to find a winner before Ottmar Hitzfeld's Swiss side almost returned fire in stoppage time.

The only goal of the fiercely fought contest came in the 118th minute when Lionel Messi produced a forceful run through midfield before playing it out to the right for Angel Di Maria.

The Real Madrid winger was perfectly placed to slot home a neat side-footed effort with his trusty left boot beyond a desperate Diego Benaglio who had been so good throughout the match.

The goal sent the Argentine faithful into raptures but the travelling mass was almost silent when Switzerland came inches away from scoring an equaliser minutes later.

Second-half substitute Blerim Dzemaili was so close to becoming a Swiss hero when he found himself unmarked in the area but he could only head Xherdan Shaqiri's dangerous cross into the base of the post before the deflection cannoned back off him but agonisingly wide of Sergio Romero's goal.

Earlier on, Romero was called into action just before the half-hour mark when Shaqiri found Granit Xhaka in the area which prompted the Argentine keeper to stick his foot out in a reactionary manner moments before Benaglio got down smartly to deny Ezequiel Lavezzi who had volleyed a header from Gonzalo Higuain.

Swiitzerland had a great chance to open the scoring late in the first half but Josip Drmic hit his attempted chip from just inside the area straight at a waiting Romero.

Shaqiri's free-kick five minutes into the second half caused some problems for Romero before Marcos Rojo fired on target only to see his angled effort well kept out by Benaglio.

Just after the hour, Benaglio was forced to tip Higuain's goal-bound header over the bar while Messi wasn't too far away with a sweet volley after controlling neatly with his chest.

Argentina, who had so much more possession of the ball throughout, had been so close to breaking the deadlock just over 10 minutes from time when Benaglio did brilliantly to get down low to his right and keep out Messi's drive before courageously diving on a loose ball that Rodrigo Palacio was set to pounce on.

The fourth extra-time of this tournament came and the first half went without any real consequence before Di Maria landed the killer blow just as the Swiss were preparing themselves for a penalty shootout.

The last-gasp victory sees Argentina book their spot in the quarter-finals for the third time in four World Cups and they will now await the winner of today's Belgium v USA match for their final eight fixture in Brasilia on Saturday.

For the Swiss, they will say goodbye to German tactician Hitzfeld who will bow out of Swiss football with his head held high after taking the reins of the national team back in 2008.

2014 FIFA World Cup - Round of 16

Argentina: 1 (Angel Di Maria 118') Switzerland: 0

Arena Corinthians, Sao Paulo - 63,255

Yellow cards:ARG - Marcos Rojo 90', Angel Di Maria 119', Ezequiel Garay 120+4' SUI - Granit Xhaka 36', Gelson Fernandes 73'

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Andrew Slevison
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Andrew Slevison

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