FIFA World Cup 2014: Baichung hails 'classy' Messi

Aditi Tyagi

In the last two matches of Round of 16, Argentina and Belgium booked their berth in the quarter-finals after beating Switzerland and USA respectively. In an exclusive chat with Aditi Tyagi of Zee Media, former Indian skipper Baichung said that Lionel Messi once again spread his magic to take his team to the next stage. Baichung also praised Tim Howard and Julian Green for their outstanding performance against Belgium.

Excerpts from the conversation:

Lionel Messi once again helped his team to win another thriller, what`s your take on his performance?

Messi mesmerised once again with class and helped his team to book a berth in the quarter-finals. Against Switzerland as well, Messi played like a one man army. His four back-to-back Man-of-the-Match awards are good enough to judge his performance so far in the World Cup. Though, Messi didn`t score a goal against the Swiss team, he created many chances, looked dangerous and was omnipresent during the entire game. If Argentina have to go further in the tournament, Messi has to keep performing like this.

How did Switzerland perform in the match according to you?

Switzerland played amazing football throughout the game as they didn`t give Argentina many chances in the first 90 minutes. In fact, Switzerland created many chances but couldn`t manage to convert them. They gave Argentina a tough fight overall, as it was expected out of them. After the first half of extra-time, I also thought that the match would go to penalty shoot-out. But in the extra-time Swiss players failed to mark Messi, even after knowing the kind of form he has been in. And eventually they paid a heavy price for it, as Messi beat two defenders to set up a goal for Angle de Maria, who scored a winner.

What`s your take on the last match of the Round of 16, wherein Belgium beat USA?

It was a thriller match as well, which went to extra-time. I think Belgium should have won the game in the first ninety minutes but the resolute USA kept them at bay. USA goalkeeper Tim Howard`s outstanding saves stopped Belgium from scoring in the first 90 minutes. Though, in the first extra-time Belgium took two-goal lead, even then USA didn`t throw in the towel as Julian Green pulled one back in the dying minutes of the second half. USA really played their heart out.

What do you have to say about the two USA players - Howard and Green - who won the hearts of the fans with their stealing performance?

USA goalie has been outstanding throughout the tournament. He proved what he is capable of. If I have to pick the best goalkeeper of the tournament so far, then without a doubt I would pick Howard. If Messi is the man behind Argentina`s success in this World Cup, then Tim is the man for USA. Against Portugal as well he did a stupendous job. As far as Green is concerned, he is just 19 and to come as a substitute and score a goal in such an intense situation in a big match is really commendable. His goal actually took USA back in the game. So a commendable work by both the USA players.

France will lock horns with Germany now to reach the semis, your take on it?

It`s going to be the blockbuster match of the tournament. In fact, the quarter-final clash between Belgium and Argentina is going to be an interesting match too. But yes, match between the two European giants – Germany and France – would certainly be the biggest match of this World Cup.

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