The brief resurgence of European sides offers a glimmer of hope for Switzerland. Having seen their Dutch and German neighbours scrape through against Mexico and Algeria, they can start to convince themselves that Brazil 2014 does not wholly belong to the Africans and Americans.
However, the Netherlands and Germany didn’t have Messi to deal with. The sublime, scampering Argentinian has finally turned up to a World Cup with his best game, and carried his otherwise intermittent team through the group stages with four goals in three games.
The last-minute winner against Iran showed that, for all the attacking potential of Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain, it’s Messi who makes this side into potential World Cup winners. Aguero is injured for tonight’s match, replaced by Paris St-Germain’s Ezequiel Lavezzi, meaning the attentions of the watching crowd will be even more focussed on the Barcelona man.
The Swiss have so far eschewed their tendency to play solid, limited football, instead performing with surprising gusto against Ecuador and Honduras. Yet their 5-goal rout at the hands of France shows that their new-found ambition does not come without its price. Expect more than enough space for Angel Di Maria, Messi’s primary assistant, to drive into and exploit.