Switzerland stunned Ecuador 2-1 with a stoppage time goal from Haris Seferovic in a listless match at Brasilia’s Mane Garrincha on Sunday afternoon.
It was the poorest game of the World Cup to date but ended in thrilling fashion as the Swiss stopped a sure goal at one end to race down the field and steal all three points in Group E. The result also spared FIFA more blushes as the Swiss had good goal erased by yet another blown offside call at what has been a sloppily officiated World Cup so far.
”It was a dream to be able to win this match in the very last minute like this,” Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said through a translator. ”It was emotional — it will be important for the morale of the team.”
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Seferovic’s goal capped an astonishing thirty seconds that saw Valon Behrami make a game-saving tackle on Michael Arroyo to restart the play and send Seferovic streaking downfield. Ricardo Rodriguez crossed the ball and Seferovic thumped it home past a helpless Alexander Dominguez.
Both teams looked flawed — Ecuador are notoriously poor outside of Quito and the Swiss are as average and bland as a team can get — yet the result was as expected. Still, for neutrals, it was a hard match to stomach, and there were plenty of empty seats in Brasilia to greet the teams in what is becoming an emerging story of this young Cup.
Still, for a time, it looked as if Ecuador was about to pull off another upset. Enner Valencia stunned Switzerland in the 20th minute when he was allowed a free header. Walter Ayovi sent in a fine free kick after Stephan Lichtsteiner conceded a cheap foul and Enner pulled off a mazy inside-out run to lose Johan Djourou. It was a dismal goal for the Swiss to concede but a fine finish and in truth no less than Ecuador had deserved — for all of Switzerland’s midfield power, they had been stood up by an uncompromising if unheralded Ecuadoran side.
After the goal, the Swiss tried to get back into the match, lumping crosses at Alexander Dominguez’ net. Dominguez, a keeper who mysteriously likes to stay on his line and then race our far too late, flapped at several of them — which should have heartened the Swiss. But their accuracy was so poor — completing just one cross out of 16 attempts in the first half — that Ecuador was rarely troubled.
At the other end, Felipe Caicedo and Jefferson Montero continued to bull their way into the area, dragging as many of the Swiss backs as they could. Had they made Diego Benaglio work a little more, they might have nicked another. As it was, their lack of quality left them ripe for the taking.
After the second half, Switzerland finally made them pay. On a straightforward corner sent in by Ricardo Rodriguez, sub Admir Mehmedi simply jumped up and nodded the ball past the hapless Dominguez. It was playground stuff, made sillier by the fact that Mehmedi has two Ecuadoran defenders next to him, neither of which bothered to leave their feet.
Montero started to make a greater impact for Ecuador as the game ground on in the heat of the steppes, forcing Benaglio to defend his post well. But he too started to fade late and ended up being hauled off with fifteen to play.
The most controversial moment came in the 70th minute when Josip Drmic slotted the ball home after it had taken a series of deflections. The assistant raised his flag for offside; the problem was he was out of position and simply muffed the call. The Swiss protested but to no avail; Ecuador certainly looked relieved to get away with one.
Switzerland next face France in Salvador while Ecuador play Honduras in Curitiba. Both will have to raise their games if they are to remain at this World Cup.
”We were naive and that cost us the game,” Ecuador coach Reinaldo Rieda said. ”(The loss) is more our fault. We were not beaten by our opponent.”