SWITZERLAND 2-1 ECUADOR
SUNDAY 15TH JUNE – BRASILIA
Switzerland went 1-0 behind after 22 minutes to an Enner Valencia header but manager Hitzfeld infused new energy when SC Freiburg forward Admir Mehmedi drew level just after the break. Then in the closing seconds Swiss striker Seferovic prevented the first draw of the tournament after meeting the end of a Rodriguez cross.
Both Ecuador and Switzerland qualified for the World Cup with relative ease. The difference being Switzerland topped a group without losing a game while Ecuador finished 4th, ahead of Uruguay but losing five games along the way. Nevertheless both teams went into the game fighting for second place as former world cup winners France are the favourites to top Group E.
Day four of the World Cup began at the Estadio Brasilia where 70,000 watched Switzerland take on Ecuador in the first game of Group E. Ottmar Hitzfeld fielded a strong team mainly of Bundesliga players including Ricardo Rodriguez, Josip Drmic and Xherdan Shaqiri. They took up a 4-2-3-1 formation poised with plenty of attacking outlets supported by a Napoli duo of Inler and Behrami. Ecuador however declared a starting eleven led by Antonio Valencia, who played off striker Felipe Caicedo in a flexible 4-4-2.
Ecuador started brightly as they won two corners before the five minutes mark had been passed. Despite Ecuador having 75% of the ball in the opening stages they struggled to get a shot away. Eventually after 12 minutes; Bayern Munich winger Xherdan Shaqiri took the first real shot of the game. After a cautious initial fifteen minutes in the birth of Group E the match was seemingly even with no real chances, Ecuador showing more teeth and urgency when in possession. Then following an Ayovi free kick, Enner Valencia scored. He was left unmarked in the six yard box and was allowed the space to direct a commendable header past Wolfsburg keeper Diego Benaglio. Johan Djourou was at fault in not following the movement of Valencia in a feeble zonal marking. So after not losing in qualifying and not conceding to a set piece, Switzerland were behind after only 22 minutes. Not the start two times champions league winner Ottmar Hitzfeld was looking for.
In pursuit of a goal the Swiss side saw more of the ball and more opportunities. Drmic couldn’t make contact on a corner and directly after Behrami’s header was held by Ecuador keeper Alexander Dominguez. After 34 minutes, Switzerland’s first real chance from open play cropped up. Led by Shaqiri, passes were exchanged before a shot was blocked. The claim of handball that followed proved futile. By the time of the 7th corner pressure was building against Ecuador. But not enough to reflect the talented side Switzerland played. Just before the whistle blew for half time there were shouts of a penalty as youngster Carlos Gruezo’s run and quick exchange with Felipe Caicedo ended in the striker falling down. Referee Irmatov deemed it not worthy of a spot kick.
Once the game had recommenced, Admir Mehmedi replaced Valentin Stocker, which proved to be pivotal when he headed home a Ricardo Rodriguez corner. This moment proved to be influential as Switzerland began to show more energy on the ball. Five minutes after the goal Switzerland seemed fragile again from the set piece as Frickson Erazo almost put La Tricolor back in front. Despite such a weakness the Swiss were keen and hungry for more. Lichtsteiner’s cross created a chance for Mehmedi on the hour mark but he struggled to get a shot away. The increase in shots seemed to be assisted by Shaqiri’s pace playing down the middle instead of down the right in front of Lichtsteiner. The increase in chances was epitomised shortly after by a disallowed goal. Rodriguez pumped another ball into the box, dummied by Xhaka and slotted in by Drmic for what would be his 4th goal for his nation. However the Uzbekistan officials disallowed the goal, for being offside. Replays show it wasn’t offside which adds yet another controversy to the list of incorrect decisions.
The last fifteen minutes saw a switch of formation for Ecuador to a 4-2-3-1 whereby Antonio Valencia was given a more comfortable position on the wing to take advantage of the Ricardo Rodriguez’s attacking nature. Haris Seferovic also replaced hot prospect Josip Drmic. By this time both sides seemed to resign to one a piece. Switzerland were comfortable but did little with the ball. Then with only five minutes remaining, Arroya’s free kick took a slight deflection almost catching Diego Benaglio out, provoking a good praise-worthy save out of the keeper. In the dying moments Antonio Valencia surged deep into Swiss territory and pulled the ball back to Enner Valencia. Tackled by Behrami, the Swiss mounted their own attack; supply coming from young left back Rodriguez once again a near post cross was dispatched, met and neatly finished by Haris Seferovic. Switzerland took the points away from a testing first game.
Ecuador will play Honduras next, needing a win to stay in contention for the knockout phases. A win against Honduras could provide a needed boost before playing the French. Meanwhile Switzerland go to Salvador to play France. A result there would probably be enough if other results go their way.
SWITZERLAND: Benaglio, Lichtsteiner, Djourou, Von Bergen, Rodriguez, Behrami, Inler, Xhaka, Stocker (Mehmedi 46), Shaqiri, Drmic (Seferovic 75).
GOALS: Mehmedi 48, Seferovic 90+3.
ECUADOR: Dominguez, Guagua, Erazo, Paredes, Ayovi, Noboa, A. Valencia, Gruezo, Montero (Rojas 77), Caicedo (Arroyo 70), E. Valencia.
GOALS: E. Valencia 22.
BOOKINGS: Parades 53.
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