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Last-gasp Seferovic goal sees Switzerland beat Ecuador

AS AS 15/06/2014 Aritz Gabilondo

A last-gasp goal from Real Sociedad’s Haris Seferovic in the game’s final move sealed the Russian roulette that was the end of Switzerland and Ecuador’s Group E match. It was heaven for the Swiss and hell for the Ecuadorians, because either of the two sides could have finished as winners or losers. The Txuri-urdin striker, incidentally, only scored twice in La Liga last season, but his goal made him the hero for the Swiss when it was least expected. Indeed, it had seemed that both teams would leave the denouement of the fight for second place in the group, with respect to Honduras and barring a catastrophe for France, to the final round of games. But no. Seferovic grabbed the floor and changed the narrative completely.

The fact is that Ecuador looked to control the match and, for much of the affair, had more chances. The youngster Carlos Gruezo took on the responsibility of carrying the burden of the midfield and even sought to join in the attack. The emergence of a young player from the Ecuadorian youth system is welcome, just as it is to see him show such personality in his first game on the world’s biggest stage. Up front, coach Reinaldo Rueda placed all his trust in his two powerful forwards, Felipe Caicedo and Enner Valencia, who bullied an uncharacteristically timid Swiss defence in their approaches on the area. Out on the left, a light and slippery Jefferson Montero roamed free, the 24-year-old the only player who gave the impression that he could do something different every time he touched the ball.

In truth, there was a timidity not just to the defence but the whole of Ottmar Hitzfeld’s team, aware that a good many eyes are trained on what this generation of good players can do. The first sign of fragility came from a set-piece. Walter Ayoví delivered the ball to the heart of the area and Valencia headed in with overwhelming ease. Johan Djourou was careless in his marking and goalkeeper Diego Benaglio was not exactly found at his sharpest, either. Ecuador were comfortable, particularly with one-goal advantage in their back pockets. There was a sensation that they could stretch their lead on any counter-attack, but – apart from Montero – they have players made not to attack the space, but to get stuck into a battle. And the match opened up.

Switzerland's Haris Seferovic scores his side's second goal during the group E World Cup soccer match between Switzerland and Ecuador at the Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, June 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn) © Michael Sohn Switzerland's Haris Seferovic scores his side's second goal during the group E World Cup soccer match between Switzerland and Ecuador at the Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, June 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Switzerland, with Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka and their most decisive players anonymous, were impotent at times, despite offering a guarantee of danger when they attacked. It was also on a deal ball, however, that the equaliser arrived. Shortly after the start of the second half, a moment of carelessness as considerable as that committed by the Swiss in the first period, the Ecuador defence and its goalkeeper fell asleep and Admir Mehmedi rose highest to bring the scores level.

The equaliser revolutionised the game’s final stages. Ecuador continued to overwhelm Hitzfeld’s men when they came forward and had two good opportunities in long-range efforts from Gruezo and Montero. Switzerland also threatened with shots that included one from Shaqiri into the side-netting. There were spaces and general disorder. The heat, the fear of losing and the scant confidence inspired by their defences helped neither side to bring calm to the encounter. And, when it seemed that the result would be a draw defined by carelessness and imprecision, Seferovic’s ran to the near post to push in a first-time shot and spark madhouse celebrations.

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