Football

Hitzfeld knows how to neutralise Messi

Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said he plans to stop Argentine star Lionel Messi at the World Cup, and prolong his glittering career in his last tournament before retiring.

The former Bayern Munich boss said he would demonstrate in the last-16 clash tonight (Singapore time) how to neutralise Messi , who has plundered four goals in three games so far in Brazil.

And the German, who confirmed he would quit football after the World Cup, added that he was not approaching tonight's showdown with the thought that it may be his last game.

"How to stop Messi? We'll show you tomorrow how we do it," Hitzfeld said at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo this morning.

"Of course, I've thought with the staff how to go on and continue to the quarter-finals - so I don't think it's going to be my last match," he added.

The comments indicate Hitzfeld, one of only five coaches to win the Champions League with two different teams, is preparing a tactical masterclass to shackle the four-time World Player of the Year.

The 65-year-old pulled off one of the great shocks of the 2010 World Cup, when Switzerland beat eventual champions Spain 1-0 in the group stage, en route to an early exit.

Switzerland, thanks to a hat-trick from "Messi of the Alps" Xherdan Shaqiri, recovered from a 5-2 thrashing by France to swamp Honduras 3-0 and reach the last 16.

"I think any defence will face problems when facing Messi. But problems are there to be solved," Hitzfeld said.

"I trust my people, I trust my defence and the entire team. The entire team will have to perform, but I'm optimistic."

Hitzfeld said that Switzerland were entirely different from the team that lost 3-1 to Argentina in a friendly in 2012, where Messi scored his first international hat-trick.

"Switzerland have become stronger over the last two years," he said. "We play a different style, a different technical formation, and we will try to use different means to cope with Argentina."

Meanwhile, Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella hailed Messi's "amazing" World Cup form, and compared him to Diego Maradona during the team's title run in 1986.

Sabella said he never had any doubts that Messi, who has not always produced his best at international level, would star at the tournament.

"Messi's playing an amazing World Cup, that's what everybody expected," said Sabella this morning.

"I expected it, so did his colleagues and so did all Argentinians in general. So of course we're happy; we're happy for the team and for him as well.

"He's an important player for us. Maradona was a very important player in that time, and Messi is important as well." - Wire Services.

World Cup