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RIO DE JANEIRO, July 02. /ITAR-TASS/. The Argentina vs. Switzerland and Belgium vs. USA concluding football matches in the Round of 16 were the best remembered events of the 20th day of the World Cup Finals (WCF) in Brazil. Ninety minutes proved not enough for the teams in both matches to score a goal and reveal a winner, and they had to play on the field 30 minutes more.
The match between the national teams of Argentina and Switzerland was played at the Corinthians Stadium in Sao Paulo. The Argentine players were obvious favorites in the match. However, the Swiss made their best showing at the tournament and offered a veritable battle to their more reputed opponents. Both the first and second half of the match went off in a tough going. The Argentine footballers were literally besieging the opponents' goal cage. However, the Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio made a phenomenal showing that evening. His teammates were also fully involved in the process, mounting pressure on the opponents. Nevertheless, the score still remained 0-0 throughout the 90 minutes. The teams then moved on to extra time and no longer demonstrated pep, coming to realize that the value of an error grows many-fold. The most fair development of the match would have been a series of post-match penalty shootouts. Argentina, however, managed to score literally two minutes before the expiry of extra time.
In the 118th minute, Lionel Messi picked up the ball midfield, brought it to the penalty area of the Swiss side and made a splendid pass to Angel di Maria who was in a fine position for scoring and who opened the score in the match 1-0. Following that, the Swiss launched a spate of attacks at the Argentine goal cage. At one moment, following a header from one of Swiss footballers, the ball was sent to the goal-cage corner of the South Americans. Upon hitting a post, the ball bounced back to the hitter, ricochetted, and missed the target. That was the most realistic opportunity to score and save the match, but the Swiss missed the chance. The team of Argentina won the hardest victory, qualifying for the quarterfinals, awaiting the outcome of the Belgium vs. USA match.
The concluding match of the Round of 16 was played in Salvador. In that match, the Belgian team had an ovewhelming advantage throughout the game. However, the US footballers demonstrated a model of tenacity, willpower and character.
From the very outset, the Belgian side started frequenting the penalty area of the opponents. Opportunities arose near the goal cage, tended by Tim Howard, with enviable regularity. However, the American defenders managed to cope with the onslaught. The first half ended goalless 0-0. In the second half, the Belgians stepped up the pressure still further, and the Americans' defense began to crack. The Red Devils had a whole lot of scoring opportunities, but the daring goalkeeper Tim Howard, who played fine at both the line and in runs-out, invariably stood in the way of attacks and made saves. At the very end of regulaion game, the Americans brought about a hundred percent scoring opportunity. However, US forward Chris Wondolowski, who found himself alone in the middle of the penalty area of the opponents, sent the ball above the goal cage. So, the teams had to play another 30 minutes in extra time.
Prior to extra time, Marc Wilmots, coach of the Belgian side, fielded Romelu Lukaku in place of Divock Origi, and the substitution proved decisive. Already in the 93rd minute, Lukaku distinguished himself with a goal-promotin pass to Kevin De Bruyne who then scored himself at the end of the first 15 minutes of extra time 2-0.
However, the Americans did not yet have their final say. Their coach Jurgen Klinsmann also got a joker in his sleeve and fielded Julian Green before a short breather. This halfback, who is reckoned the main young talent of American football, promptly reduced the gap in score, confidently sending the ball into the net from the outside of the penalty area 2-1. The Americans had an opportunity to even the score altogether but the shot made by Jermaine Jones from the outside of the penalty lacked accuracy. The US team still had yet another sure moment when as a result of a very crafty penalty kick, Clint Dempsey found himself one on one with Thibaut Courtois, but this time the goalkeeper of Atletico made a wonderful save.
The Belgian side, upon feeling quite nervous for a while, retained the winning result in the end and qualified for the quarterfinals. They are now to contest the right to qualify for the semifinals with the Argentine national team. A winner in the match will then play in the semifinal against the best in a Netherlands vs. Costa Rica match.
Out of near-football events, it is worthwhile to mention the success of the Brazilian police who neutralized a ring of fraudsters who sought to profit from the sale of tickets for tournament matches. Through the efforts of law enforcement personnel, eleven ticket sharpies have been arrested, nine in Rio and two in Sao Paulo.
Reports say that the sharpies were selling tickets intended for FIFA sponsors, footballers, and national football federations. FIFA provided part of tickets free of charge for sponsors, national football federations, and members of organizations. The police also closed down two travel bureaux, which were involved in the unlawful activities, by blocking their accounts.
The operation to bust the ring was prepared for several months and was codenamed Jules Rimetthis, which was the name of FIFA's 3rd president and the title of FIFA World Cup that was presented to winners of world championships from 1930 to 1970.
Police official Fabio Baruque said that the criminal ring had an international influence and engaged in profiteering at least at the latest four World Cup tournaments. All the tickets were sold at very high prices. For 22 tickets for the Brazil vs. Cameroon match alone, they sharpies fetched about $500,000. Baruque said the investigation would be conducted.