Continents will collide as Switzerland hosts Argentina in a transatlantic clash in Bern on Wednesday. The Schweizer Nati will look to fit in a few kicks before a period of dormancy, on account of their failure to qualify for Euro 2012 in Poland and the Ukraine.
La Albiceleste, on the other hand, are hoping to build momentum and solidify their squad under head coach Alejandro Sabella on the way to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Where: Stade de Suisse Wankdorf, Bern, Switzerland
When: Wednesday, February 29th at 2:30 p.m. EST
Watch: Gol TV, GolTV-Canada, TyC Sports Argentina, i-Cable Sports, ESPN DOS
Player to Watch for Switzerland: Xherdan Shaqiri
The future of Swiss football lies at the feet of Xherdan Shaqiri. The 20-year-old, Kosovo-born striker has been touted as Switzerland's version of Lionel Messi ever since his hat trick against Bulgaria this past September.
The current Basel and future Bayern Munich starlet will have a golden opportunity to justify those lofty comparisons against Ray Hudson's man crush while nudging Switzerland up the world rankings.
Player to Watch for Argentina: Lionel Messi
It'd be tempting to highlight Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero up front.
But realistically, it wouldn't be right to give the "honor" to anyone other than Lionel Messi. The three-time reigning World Player of the Year has been on particularly fearless form of late, with six goals in his last three appearances with Barcelona.
Despite his tremendous club success, though, Leo has still come under fire for his somewhat subpar play with La Albiceleste (19 goals in 66 caps). A strong performance against a physical Swiss side should help Messi to quell some of those concerns and silence a swath of his critics.
Key Matchup: Switzerland's Back Line vs. Argentina's Attacking Trio
There's no easy way to stop a three-headed monster as menacing as the one that Alejandro Sabella has at his disposal. The best any side can hope to do is slow it down a bit and pray that it doesn't get the run of play for the entirety of the match.
Luckily for the Schweizer Nati, they have a pair of gritty and experienced backs in Stephan Lichsteiner and Philippe Senderos capable of containing the likes of Messi, Higuain and Kun.
To some extent, at least. A fit Johan Djorou would make the Swiss defence a bit less cheese-like, though he hasn't exactly been on point with Arsenal of late.
What They're Saying
It should come as little surprise that the back line is the object of Alejandro Sabella's concern heading into Wednesday's friendly, if for no other reason than the fact that he has a host of world-class attackers at his disposal.
That being said, Sabella has made it clear that he wants to shore up the Seleccion's leaky defence and isn't afraid to do so by trying out new and different players. As he told reporters on Monday:
"We have to construct a strong defence and that is why we called up who we did. There are players who I have picked for the first time, like Campagnaro and Cata Diaz. We have to take into account [Nicolas] Burdisso's injury.
"This game will help the team to gain consistency and the players to get to know each other. Some here have been called for the first time."
"It is also worthwhile for the competitive element, and to build a group spirit on and off the pitch."
Prediction: Argentina 2, Switzerland 1
Argentina have more than enough talent to overwhelm Switzerland in Bern so long as the Albiceleste are able to mesh their individual brilliance into a cohesive whole. Doing so against the tough Swiss defence will be no easy task, though the Argentines should be able to come away with a positive result anyway.
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