SAO PAULO (AP) — With two World Cup matches already decided in shootouts, Argentina is practicing penalties ahead of its second round game against Switzerland on Tuesday.
Coach Alejandro Sabella on Monday said the Argentines have been shooting spot kicks "in an informal way," though he added that doing it in practice is very different from doing it in front of tens of thousands of spectators with the team's World Cup survival at stake.
Brazil beat Chile and Costa Rica defeated Greece in shootouts after the games had finished level after extra time.
Sabella said those matches showed that mental strength and character are crucial to advancing in the World Cup, adding that "a gram of brains weighs more than a kilogram of muscle."
He's got a good example of that in Argentina captain Lionel Messi, the diminutive forward who's been carrying the team on his shoulders in Brazil.
Messi has scored four of Argentina's six goals, including an injury-time winner in the second match against Iran.
"Messi is playing a great World Cup," Sabella said. "Obviously he is a decisive player for us."
Apart from Messi, though, Argentina lacked sparkle in its group-phase matches. Its defense was shaky against Nigeria and its attack faltered against Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
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