Swiss will pay if they don't shadow Messi
Hitzfeld's decision not to man-mark Messi could put Swiss on plane home
ROUND OF 16
ARGENTINA v SWITZERLAND
(Tonight, 11.59pm, SingTel mio TV Ch 141 & STarHub TV Ch 223)
Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, a German, is a trained mathematician.
One of the few coaches in the world to win the Champions League with two different teams - he is renown for his experience and tactical acumen.
But, based on what he said before his team take on Argentina tonight (Singapore time), I think the 65-year-old may have just lost his mind.
Asked about Lionel Messi, Hitzfeld told Swiss newspaper Blick that he had no special measures for the Argentine captain.
"Man-to-man marking against Messi? No," he said.
"We must correctly take care of all our essential (jobs), be ready to anticipate and be error free.
"And in this, we can stop Messi."
Say that again, Mr Hitzfeld.
No special measures against the world's best player, who has already scored four in this tournament?
No extra player to close him down, even though no one else in the Argentine team seems to be doing any heavy lifting?
Hitzfeld, who has 18 major trophies in his cabinet, must know something that the rest of us don't.
For the uninitiated like me, it seems clear that stopping Messi will be critical in allowing for a Swiss upset.
Leave him alone and I suspect the Swiss will be packing their bags for a swift return home.
After an average season for Barcelona by his high standards, Messi is picking up a head of steam in this tournament that threatens to scorch everything in his path.
The Swiss were already destroyed once in Brazil, by Karim Benzema and his French compatriots, in a 5-2 mauling in the group stages.
Messi can do even more harm to the fragile Swiss defence, marshalled by men like Johan Djourou and Fabian Schaer.
Hitzfeld, whose uncle Otto was a general in World War II, hardly raised an eyebrow when asked about the Argentine terror.
Said the former Bayern Munich coach, who retires after the World Cup: "I don't dream about Messi. I enjoy him when I see him play football. I am a fan of him, like everybody who likes football."With such a stoic and calculative disposition, there is a chance Hitzfeld won't suffer nightmares after tonight.But I'm not sure the rest of his Swiss team will come away with pleasant dreams, especially if they give Mr Messi the freedom to run wild.