No more boring Switzerland
Switzerland definitively cast off their "boring" label with their dramatic last-gasp 2-1 win over Ecuador, a game that produced more goals and excitement than all three of their matches in South Africa combined.
- Report: Hitzfeld delighted with Swiss win
Four years ago in South Africa, the Swiss had bored supporters to tears after scoring just one goal and conceding one in three matches that featured one win, one draw and one defeat. Their second-round match against Ukraine in 2006, which they lost on penalties after a goalless draw, sticks in the mind as one of the dullest World Cup games in recent memory.
But the last two minutes of Sunday's match at the Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha in Brasilia will live in the memory of great World Cup finishes after the Swiss narrowly avoided conceding a goal at one end and then rushed down the other end and scored the winner.
Valon Behrami was at the centre of things: first, he rescued the Swiss by dispossessing Michael Arroyo when the Ecuador substitute had a clear shooting chance; he got up, burst out of his penalty and was scythed down by a late tackle. Where most players would have happily accepted a free kick, Behrami got up again after the referee played advantage, and sent the ball out to the right to Haris Seferovic.
The Swiss substitute sent a cross-field pass to Ricardo Rodriguez, who did well to control the ball before sending a low cross into the area that Seferovic met to turn into the roof of the net.
Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld was delighted with Behrami's determination. "I very much enjoyed that play when Valon was fouled but then noticed there was a chance to counterattack," he said after the match. "It is always very important to use your intuition and make the most of those chances."
The goal was reward for Switzerland's part in an entertaining game that either side could have won. There was never any question of Switzerland settling for a draw; on the contrary they often threw caution to the wind.
Fullbacks Stephan Lichtsteiner and Rodriguez both pressed forward even though it left them vulnerable to darting runs from Ecuador wingers Antonio Valencia and Jefferson Montero.
Switzerland's problem nowadays tends to be converting their chances, and Sunday's game was not the first time they have left it late. Seferovic was also the hero with a last-gasp goal when they beat Cyprus 1-0 at home in a World Cup qualifier.
At that point, he seemed set to be Switzerland's first-choice striker but fell down in the pecking order due to a lack of playing time at his Spanish club Real Socieded.
"Seferovic is a full-blooded center-forward who moves very well," said Hitzfeld. "He also has the physique to compete against robust opponents."
"What he lacks is playing time which he unfortunately hasn't been getting at Real Sociedad. He already played very well for us in qualifying and he has talent, but of course he has room for improvement."
Hitzfeld now has the dilemma of having to decide whether to keep Josip Drmic, who started Sunday's game, as his centre-forward against France in Salvador on Friday or give Seferovic a chance in the starting lineup.