Switzerland win and take Stocker their World Cup aspirations
Story of the game
Ecuador were by far the brighter of the two sides in the opening stages of the first half and put the abundance of pace in their front four to great use. Montero and Antonio Valencia were pushing their opposing full-backs towards their own goal and at some points, Switzerland couldn’t get out of their own half. When the Swiss did create space for themselves, the final ball was poor with Xherdan Shaqiri often the player at fault.
Ecuador took a well deserved lead midway through the first half from a free kick on the left. A driven cross was whipped towards the six yard box by Ayovi and inexplicably, Enner Valencia was left unmarked by the Swiss and was handed the easy task of nodding home from close range. Johan Djourou seemed to be the one who let Valencia run free, and then stood nonplussed when the ball hit the back of the net.
The Swiss coach would have hoped that going a goal behind would have sparked some life into his players, but the game continued with Ecuador as the primary aggressors. Something needed to change for the Europeans to get back into the game and as such, Admir Mehmedi was thrown into the action at the interval. His impact was immediate; converting a corner from Rodriguez from close range. Again, defending was called into question and the gangly keeper was left rooted to the spot as the ball flew in.
The match then proceeded to develop into a rather open affair but neither side could fashion a golden opportunity for the winner. Ecuador’s principal creator and threat; Jefferson Montero, was withdrawn from proceedings with a little over 10 minutes remaining and the game looked increasingly destined to end in a draw. The intensity had petered out of the game until Arroyo had an opening in the last minute of injury time. He dallied on the ball however and following a fantastic sliding challenge in the box, Behrami brought the ball clear. He was felled by an Ecuadorian defender but after getting straight back to his feet, the referee played a vital advantage. The ball found its way out to the left and to Ricardo Rodriguez who; for the second time in the game, supplied the assist for a Swiss goal. A low ball in to the front post was converted by the other Swiss substitute Haris Seferovic, sparking wild celebrations. Possibly a little unfair on Ecuador, but credit to Switzerland for fighting to the very end.
Switzerland: Benaglio, Lichsteiner, Djourou, Von Bergen, Rodriguez, Inler (capt), Behrami, Shaqiri, Xhaka, Stocker (Mehmedi – 45’), Drmic (Seferovic – 75’).
Ecuador: Dominguez, Paredes, Guagua, Erazo, Ayovi, A. Valencia (capt), Noboa, Gruezo, Montero (Rojas – 77’), E. Valencia, Caicedo (Arroyo – 70’).
1. Diego Benaglio – 6. Didn’t really have a great deal to do throughout the match, but he made a top save off a deflected strike to maintain parity on the score board.
2. Stefan Lichsteiner – 7. Made a great deal of forward runs and repeatedly overlapped his winger. He was occasionally caught out of position but tracked back well, and was still available to threaten the opposition defence.
20. Johan Djourou – 6. Sometimes a little vulnerable in terms of position, he had to rely on physical attributes to get him out of trouble. He was caught out on the half way line, nearly leaving his team 1 on 1.
5. Steve Von Bergen – 7. Very solid throughout, he made several blocks, clearances, and headers, and rescued his central defensive partner on occasion.
13. Ricardo Rodriguez – 7. Very keen to push forward and supplied quality deliveries from the left flank. In fact, he was the immediate source for both Swiss goals.
8. Gokhan Inler – 6. Quite disappointing overall, he was energetic and combative but was a little sloppy in possession.
11. Valon Behrami – 6. Slightly erratic on the ball but generally a decent enough performance from the Napoli man, his range of passing went astray on occasion.
23. Xherdan Shaqiri – 6. He started off poorly with over-hit deliveries from set pieces and running into cul-de-sacs, but improved greatly in the second half when the coach moved him inside to a position behind the main striker. Scything runs at the heart of Ecuador caused many more problems.
10. Granit Xhaka – 6. Didn’t quite have the expected effect on the game in an attacking sense, but he certainly played his part for the team. Replacing Shaqiri on the right gave a lot more protection to Lichsteiner and secured the defensive state of the side.
14. Valentin Stocker – 4. Barely noticeable during the first half and had very little to zero contribution to the game, and as such was hauled off at half time.
19. Josip Drmic – 6. Had a goal disallowed wrongly in the second half for offside and his link-up play occasionally caused Ecuador a problem.
18. Admir Mehmedi – 6. He couldn’t really have dreamt for a better World Cup debut, after scoring within 3 minutes of coming onto the pitch. His influence didn’t match the heights of this for the rest of the game, but his goal came at an important time and greatly assisted his team.
9. Haris Seferovic – 6. He did nothing apart from score the last-minute winner, but just for this he was important for his team.
22. Alexander Dominguez – 5. Never looked comfortable dealing with shots or crosses, and mixed poor handling with a lack of command of his penalty area.
4. Juan Carlos Paredes – 7. Energetic in defence and attack, he often overlapped Valencia to provide a cross and was always available to receive a pass.
2. Jorge Guagua – 6. Nothing more than a decent display, putting in a couple of important clearances.
3. Frickson Erazo – 6. Formed a solid partnership at the back and didn’t allow much room for Switzerland’s more talented players to work.
10. Walter Ayovi – 6. A few rash challenges slightly soured what would have otherwise been a good display as he got forward and back well all day, even providing the top quality cross for the opening goal of the game.
16. Antonio Valencia – 7. Powerful and quick, he did well to track Ricardo Rodriguez and to also push him back towards his own goal.
6. Christian Noboa – 6. Left the creating of chances to others, but performed well in central midfield and put in some strong tackles.
23. Carlos Gruezo – 6. A mature performance for the 19 year old, showing promise that he can grow into the complete midfielder.
7. Jefferson Montero – 7. Pacey and skilful on the left flank, it was a surprise when Ecuador’s manager brought him off. He would commonly glide past his man, but his contribution started to decrease in the second half when Xhaka and Lichsteiner doubled up on him.
13. Enner Valencia – 8. Scored the first goal with a decent header and was lively throughout, remaining a threat right up until the last minute by stretching the Swiss back four all across the line.
11. Felipe Caicedo – 6. His physicality was a problem for Switzerland to handle but his skills on the ball let him down from time to time.
15. Michael Arroyo – 6. Had a few penetrating runs at the Swiss back four and had a golden chance to get a shot away in injury time which could have seen Ecuador come out victorious but delayed too long.
9. Joao Rojas – 6. Demonstrated his lightning pace on a couple of occasions and beat his man to get to the by-line.
Man of the Match
Steve Von Bergen was a rock at the back for Switzerland for the entire 90 minutes, never letting anyone down. Always the man to rise above every other when the ball was crossed into the area, and he had several important blocks and crucial interceptions to his name. On more than one occasion, Von Bergen was called upon to come to the rescue of his central defensive partner and he more than managed it. While all around him at some stages seemed unaware of their defensive responsibilities, he never let his concentration lapse and refused to be overcome by physically imposing opponents. This performance is a clear pointer to why the Swiss had been so frugal with conceding goals in World Cup qualifying and if he is as good again, they should have no problem reaching the last 16.