Haris Seferovic was the hero for Switzerland in the Estadio Nacional in Brasilia on Sunday when his last minute strike saw off Ecuador to ensure the Swiss made a winning start to this year’s World Cup.
When examining the groups in this World Cup Group E would not be one to catch the eye. Made up of France, Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras it looks to be the opposite of a group of death with the two European teams looking nailed on to qualify.
However the opening games of the tournament so far have proved that games at this level rarely go according to the book. A bright start from Ecuador, making use of their abundance of pace in the forward line, certainly let Switzerland know that they were not here simply to make up the numbers. The untimely death of striker Christian Benitez halfway through qualifying contributed to the fact that the South Americans only scraped through on goal difference despite a scintillating first half of their campaign.
On the subject of going according to the book this Swiss team doesn’t look to conform to what we’ve already seen in Brazil 2014. Built on a solid defence that has lost just two games in two years, including going through qualifying unbeaten, it was perhaps not surprising that the first chance of the game didn’t come until the 16th minute mark when Xherdan Shaqiri’s long range strike was easily gathered by Alexander Dominquez.
What was surprising however was that the first goal of the game went to Ecuador, and it came from a set-piece. Throughout the whole of their qualifying campaign Switzerland didn’t concede a single goal from a set piece but that record lasted just 22 minutes in Brazil.
A foul from Stephan Lichsteiner in the right back position allowed Walter Ayovi to whip a powerful cross into the box, finding the head of Enner Valencia who nodded in.
Ecuador were defending diligently, seemingly happy with their one goal lead. This allowed Switzerland an abundance of possession in the middle of the park but they struggled to make it count, Gokhan Inler’s long range effort the best they could manage in their quest for an equaliser before the break.
The central European team needed an improvement in the second half and they came out with all guns blazing. An early long range shot from Lichtsteiner led to a corner on the left wing. Ricardo Rodriquez supplied a superb outswinging cross allowing Admir Mehmedi to head home from close range after replacing Valentin Stocker just seconds earlier.
The game was beginning to come to life as both teams looked to be suitably refreshed after the break. Enner Valencia went close with a swerving shot from 18 yards on the hour mark that narrowly dipped over the crossbar.
The Swiss should have made the most of a good opportunity 10 minutes later when Josip Drmic won possession 30 yards from goal, leading the a three-v-one situation in favour of Switzerland. Drmic’s pass to Shaqiri was a little too heavy however, forcing the Bayern Munich man too wide to get a decent shot in on goal.
A deflected free kick from Michael Arroyo with five minutes later looked as if it may deceive Diego Benaglio in the Swiss goal but the Wolfsburg man managed to twist his body back in the direction of the ball and parry it away.
It was not surprising however, given the way in which this year’s tournament has been played, that there was to be major drama in the final seconds. After an excellent tackle from Behrami in his own box Switzerland were given the space to launch a counter-attack. When the ball found its way out to Rodriquez on the left wing he powered into the box before crossing low to substitute Haris Seferovic who tapped home.
Although the game itself was far from dramatic it did throw up a dramatic finish and one that sees Switzerland move to the summit of Group E with France and Honduras still yet to play.
Next up for Switzerland is a clash with neighbours France in Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador whilst Ecuador travel to the Arena de Baixada in Curitiba to face Honduras. Both games take place on Friday June 20th.
Switzerland: Diego Benaglio; Steve Von Bergen, Johan Djourou, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Ricardo Rodriguez; Valon Behrami, Gokhan Inler, Xherdan Shaqiri, Valentin Stocker (Admir Mehmedi, 46); Josip Drmic (Haris Seferovic, 75), Granit Xhaka.
Booked: Johan Djourou (84).
Ecuador: Alexander Dominguez; Frickson Erazo, Jorge Guagua, Juan Carlos Paredes, Walter Ayovi; Christian Noboa, Carlos Gruezo, Antonio Valencia, Jefferson Montero (Joao Rojas, 77); Felipe Caicedo (Michael Arroyo, 70), Enner Valencia.
Booked: Juan Carlos Paredes (53).
Referee: Ravshan Irmatov (Uzbekistan)
Extratime.com Man of the Match: Admir Mehmedi (Switzerland)
Ruaidhrí has been writing for ExtraTime.ie since February 2012. He is currently studying Journalism in DCU and has been an avid League of Ireland fan since a very early age. He hopes to one day report on Shelbourne competing in the Champions League again. Ruaidhrí can be contacted on Twitter <a href="http://www.twitter.com/Ruaidhri_Croke">@Ruaidhri_Croke</a>.