World Cup 2014 – Group E – Match Report: Switzerland v. Ecuador; Bits & Bobs

18 Jun
An Ecuadorean fan readies for the match (Fernando Llano/AP).

An Ecuadorean fan readies for the match (Fernando Llano/AP).

You could make a really solid argument that this match was better than the three-goal thriller that was France v. Honduras. The teams were more evenly matched, you got a real sense of both teams’ strengths and weaknesses—and nothing beats a last-minute winner, right? That said, I’m going to keep this short and sweet.

Where: Estadio Nacional, Brasilia.

Switzerland: Benaglio, Lichtsteiner, Von Bergen, Inler (C), Xhaxa, Behrami, Rodriguez, Stocker, Drmic, Djourou, Shaqiri

Ecuador: Dominguez, Guagua, Erazo, Paredes, Noboa, Montero, W. Ayovi, Caicedo, E. Valencia, A. Valencia (C), Gruezo.

The Swiss got off to a bright start, and looked dangerous going forward. They were obviously very aware of Ecuador’s defensive weaknesses , having lost their veteran centerback Segundo Castillo to a serious hamstring injury just days before the tournament kicked off. The Swiss were particularly adept getting the ball out wide to Valencia (Man Utd’s Antonio) and Ricardo Rodriguez. The Serie A midfield pair of Inter’s Gokhan Inler and Napoli’s Valon Behrami were a force to be reckoned with, and Ecuador had a hard time moving forward. The South American side knew it was going to have to rely on counters and set pieces to make themselves known, and it didn’t take very long for that to happen.

In the 21st minute, Enner Valencia (no relation to Antonio) drove a close-range header into the far post off a well-taken set piece. He was unmarked in the box and the Swiss paid the price for their sloppy defending.

Enner Valencia powers it home for the opening goal of the match.

Enner Valencia powers it home for the opening goal of the match.

Enner Valencia celebrates a well-taken header.

Enner Valencia celebrates a well-taken header.

But the Swiss weren’t about to let one goal take the wind out of their sails. This time around, they seem to have learned their lesson. But their free-flowing offensive play kept on stalling in the final third – and they made a meal out of each set piece they won. It wasn’t boring, but it was very, very frustrating to watch.

That all changed in the second half, when the Swiss did some tactical finagling. They subbed on striker Admir Mehmedi for midfielder Valentin Stocker, and his presence was felt immediately as the Swiss began attacking with intent. And BOOM! Hello equalizer in the 47th minute. In a strange fit of serendipity, the goal was an almost mirror image of Ecuador’s goal in the first: a whizzing header at close range taken by someone who went completely unmarked in the box.

Super-sub Mehmedi puts one past the keeper after only 2 minutes on the pitch.

Super-sub Mehmedi puts one past the keeper after only 2 minutes on the pitch.

That leveled out the playing field for much the remainder of the game. Both teams looks most threatening in the air, and while the Swiss proved more dominant in possession, Ecuador created a number of real chances. Enner Valencia was particularly dangerous on the counter and Ecuadorian forward Felipe Caicedo was strong in the box, with good positioning and possession.

Felipe Caicedo of Ecuador and Switzerland's Ricardo Rodriguez have their eyes on the prize.

Felipe Caicedo of Ecuador and Switzerland’s Ricardo Rodriguez have their eyes on the prize.

There was strong box-to-box play from both teams, but each team had trouble finishing when scoring chances arose. It looked all set to end in a draw but with 20 seconds left in stoppage time, the Swiss eked out a last-gasp goal when Haris Seferovic, another sub, managed to tuck the ball in at the near post off a brilliant pass from Rodriguez.

Haris Seferovic FTW!

Haris Seferovic FTW!

My general takeaway? Both of these teams are forces to be reckoned with, so France better tread carefully. Switzerland’s ostensible star, Xherdan Shaqiri was pretty poor, in my opinion. He may retain a lot of possession for the team, but his passing was suspect and his finishing nonexistent. Strangely enough, he was named man of the match? That honor, IMHO, should have gone to Rodriguez, who was sharp on the left. He played a hand in both goals, and really kept a handle on Caciedo and Valencia up front. Also, the Swiss keeper, Diego Benaglio, is pretty freaking amazing. As for Ecuador, if they plan to stick around, they’ve got to make better use of their wingers and get more balls to Caciedo in the box.

Sadly, it just wasn't La Tri's day.

Sadly, it just wasn’t La Tri’s day.

And now for a few bits and bobs from around Group E:

*This gem of a video that captures Les Bleus traveling back to base after their victory over Honduras is full of delights – Varane lauding Benzegoal, Yohan Cabaye greeting a cardboard cut-out of his new PSG teammate David Luiz, dapper men in suits.


*Following the confusion surrounding the debut of goal-line technology, FIFA are currently modifying guidelines on how best to implement the tool in future games.

*There were reports of gunshots fired in the town housing the Honduran national team. The shots may have been fired “for fun” but the Honduran team was shaken up, according to team security.

That’ll do it for me. See you on the other side of Round 2!


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