x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Swiss roll over Del Bosque's vaunted team

Switzerland pulled off the biggest shock of the World Cup when they beat the European champions and pre-tournament favourites Spain, their first ever victory over their opponents.

Switzerland's Gelson Fernandes, in white, scores as Spain's goalkeeper, Iker Casillas, sprawls on the ground in front of him.
Switzerland's Gelson Fernandes, in white, scores as Spain's goalkeeper, Iker Casillas, sprawls on the ground in front of him.

DURBAN // Switzerland pulled off the biggest shock of the World Cup when they beat the European champions and pre-tournament favourites Spain 1-0 last night, their first ever victory over their opponents in 19 games. Gelson Fernandes' goal after a mix up in the Spanish defence gave the Swiss a shock 52nd-minute lead and Spain, for all their talent and guile, were unable to find a way through the massed ranks of white Switzerland shirts.

"We tried in an orthodox way and in an heroic way, but we were not able to score. It wasn't our day. We dominated almost all the match," Vicente del Bosque, the Spain coach, said after watching his team have 24 efforts on goal. "This defeat means that we have to win the other two [group] matches," he added. The Swiss, who have now not conceded a goal in the World Cup since a 3-0 defeat to Spain in 1994, share the lead in Group H with Chile.

"It's a great feeling to start the tournament with three [points] against one of the biggest contenders for the title," said Ottmar Hitzfeld, their coach . "These were three unexpected points and beyond that I was very pleased to see a strong performance by my team. I'm very happy, I'm very satisfied by this excellent start." After a forgettable first half, the Swiss looked like spending another 45 minutes defending for their lives until a long punt by their goalkeeper Diego Benaglio caused chaos in the Spanish defence.

Iker Casillas, the Real Madrid goalkeeper, clashed with the Swiss striker Eren Derdiyok and Gerard Pique, the Barcelona centre-back, was unable to stop the ball falling to Fernandes, who clipped the it into an empty net. The defeat ended a run of 12 straight victories for the Spanish, who had qualified for the World Cup with a 100 per cent record. "To be fair, I'm not used to scoring goals, so I was a bit surprised," said Fernandes, the former Manchester City midfielder who plays for France's St Etienne. "It was a bit of luck." It was only Spain's second loss in 50 games

The European champions enjoyed a near monopoly of possession for much of the game but were unable to convert the chances they created. Del Bosque, who had started the match with David Villa as a lone striker, brought Fernando Torres and Jesus Navas on after the goal to try to rescue the game but they were unable to find a way through. Xabi Alonso hit the underside of the bar with a fine strike in the 70th minute, Navas shot lamely at Benaglio when through on goal about a minute later, and Pique squandered another chance on the next Spanish attack.

Derdiyok, playing in place of his injured captain Alex Frei, then jinked his way through the defence to almost double the Swiss lead but, to the relief of the Spanish, his shot bounced off the post. Torres had a couple more openings in the dying minutes of the game but failed to exploit them and, after five minutes of added time, the Swiss were able to celebrate a famous victory. * Reuters

Group H
Country M W D L GF GA Pts
Chile 1 1 0 0 1 0 3
Switzerland 1 1 0 0 1 0 3
Spain 1 0 0 1 0 1 0
Honduras 1 0 0 1 0 1 0