SUBSTITUTE Haris Seferovic finished off a breathtaking box-to-box stoppage time counter-attack to hand Switzerland a thrilling 2-1 win over Ecuador in their World Cup Group E opener yesterday.
Scorers: Switzerland; Mehmedi (47), Seferovic (90), Ecuador; Enner Valencia (22)
A brilliant block tackle by Valon Behrami in his own area instigated the break, which was allowed to continue by an excellent decision by Uzbekistan referee Ravshan Irmatov after the midfielder was body-checked.
The move continued with Ricardo Rodriguez crossing for Seferovic to finish in the 93rd minute, sending the Swiss fans into raptures and deflating the South Americans, who had played their part in another World Cup attack-fest, albeit lacking the quality seen in earlier encounters.
“We could have gone 2-1 behind but we managed to make a very good save and then scored up the other end,” said man of the match Xherdan Shaqiri. “After half-time we played a lot of simpler passes and we let the ball do the work and that created chances.”
Ecuador coach Reinaldo Rueda lamented “a moment of naivety” that cost his side the game. “We lost our organisation at the end, we were somewhat betrayed by our emotion and this provoked the goal which took the draw away from us,” he said.
The Swiss had bossed possession for long periods at the Brasilia national stadium – where many thousands of fans missed the kick-off as they negotiated the lengthy security queues – but fell behind in the 22nd minute after pre-match concerns about their soft centre proved true.
Ecuador striker Enner Valencia easily stepped away from Johan Djourou to meet Walter Ayovi’s free kick from the right with Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio stuck on his line as the ball fizzed into his six-yard box.
The Swiss struggled to break down the South Americans and were restricted to long shots for the remainder of the half with Swiss coach Ottmar Hitzfeld opting to introduce Admir Mehmedi at the break to help find a way through.
The forward needed just three minutes to make an impact as he beat Carlos Gruezo to head home a corner and level the scores. The goal opened up the scrappy contest as the play flowed end to end, but both teams lacked calmness and quality in the final third.
The Swiss, who beat Spain in their opening match in South Africa four years ago but failed to reach the knockout stages, thought they had taken the lead when Josip Drmic poked home from close range with 20 minutes left but the strike was wrongly ruled out for offside.
Both sides continued to press forward with Swiss goalkeeper Benaglio showing his best and worst form.
The ’keeper rushed out and failed to deal with a ball over the top to leave defender Steve Von Bergen to hack away under pressure from Enner Valencia, while swift repositioning allowed him to palm away a deflected free kick by Michael Arroyo.
The Ecuadorian substitute was then guilty of dawdling in possession after trying to take an extra touch in the penalty area when he should have shot, allowing Behrami, who was guilty of giving away the ball cheaply throughout the match, to block his effort in the dying seconds.
The Swiss, who promised a more attacking display after dour, defensive displays in the last two World Cups, then flowed forward with ambition as the South Americans, looking out on their feet, struggled to track back.
Rodriguez allowed time and space down the left to roll his cross into the area for Seferovic to smash into the roof of the net.
Switzerland: Benaglio, Lichtsteiner, Djourou, Von Bergen, Rodriguez, Behrami, Inler, Shaqiri, Xhaka, Stocker (Mehmedi 46), Drmic (Seferovic 75). Subs Not Used: Sommer, Ziegler, Senderos, Lang, Barnetta, Dzemaili, Fernandes, Gavranovic, Schar, Burki.
Ecuador: Dominguez, Paredes, Erazo, Guagua, Walter Ayovi, Antonio Valencia, Gruezo, Noboa, Montero (Rojas 76), Caicedo (Arroyo 70), Enner Valencia. Subs Not Used: Banguera, Ibarra, Mendez, Minda, Jaime Ayovi,Bagui, Saritama,Martinez,Achilier,Bone.
Referee: R Irmatov (Uzb)