Lionel Messi set up a late winning goal as lacklustre Argentina downed Switzerland 1-0 in extra-time to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.

Angel Di Maria's strike in the 118th minute after a surging counter-attack launched by Messi settled a gritty duel for Argentina as penalties loomed at Sao Paulo's Corinthians Arena.

The result was cruel on Switzerland, who looked to have done enough to take the game to a penalty shoot-out with a disciplined defensive display that Argentina rarely looked like threatening.

But with two minutes left, Swiss fullback Stephan Lichtsteiner was caught in possession near halfway.

Messi accelerated clear, and after hurdling Fabian Schar's attempt to bring him down, slipped a pass to Di Maria who swept the winner past Diego Benaglio.

Sapa - AFP