World Cup post-game: Switzerland 1, Spain 0
We have the first major upset at the FIFA World Cup, with Switzerland earning a shocking 1-0 win over European champion Spain on Wednesday in South Africa.
The main storyline
Touted as the tournament co-favourite (alongside Brazil) before the tournament even kicked off, Spain was expected to cruise through the group stage and earn a second-round berth with relative ease.
Now they have a Swiss mountain to climb.
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Spain dominated the game, enjoying the overwhelming majority of possession as FC Barcelona duo Xavi and Andres Iniesta wielded their magic in midfield. The Spaniard's tiki taka style of play — a fast-paced, pass-and-move game, with emphasis on making a quick series of slick passes and maintaining possession as long as possible — was pretty to watch, but Spain couldn't pick the lock on the deadbolt Swiss defence.
Full credit to Switzerland, which kept the high-scoring Spaniards, who won 24 of their last 25 international matches and lost just two of their previous 50 overall, off the scoreboard.
Spain, currently ranked No. 2 in the world, was unbeaten in 18 all-time meetings (15 wins and three draws) with 24th-ranked Switzerland before this game, an amazing streak that ended courtesy of some steely Swiss resolve.
The winning goal
In the 54th minute, Spain's Carlos Puyol headed a ball back to teammate David Silva, who scuffed his shot. The ball sailed backwards, forcing Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas to rush out and stop Swiss striker Eren Derdiyok. But the ball ricocheted off Spain's Gerard Pique and in the ensuing goal-mouth scramble, it fell to the feet of Gelson Fernandes, who scrambled the ball over the goal-line.
Turning point of the game
Fernandes's goal forced Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque to throw on star striker Fernando Torres (recently recovered from a litany of injuries) in place of Sergio Busquets in the 61st minute. The switch instantly revitalized the European champions, who began carving out scoring chances from their possession and looking far more dangerous in the final third of the field. Xabi Alonso cannoned a shot off the crossbar and Torres terrorized the Swiss defence, as the Spanish did everything — except score.
What this result means
With the win, Switzerland moves into a tie with Chile for first place in Group H with three points apiece. Winless Honduras and Spain are at the bottom of the group.
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Today's result sets up an interesting match on June 21 between Switzerland and Chile, with the winner locking up a second-round berth. Spain needs a victory in its next game to get back into the Group H race or risk elimination.
Man of the match
He only entered the game as a second-half substitute in the 61st minute, but Torres was the best player on the field, causing the Swiss defence plenty of grief with his dangerous runs. It raises the question: why did del Bosque not start him?
Save of the match
Diego Benaglio came up with a brilliant stop in the 24th minute. Iniesta played a slide-rule pass into the box for Gerard Pique, who expertly side-stepped a Swiss defender and fired from close range. Benaglio stayed on his feet and threw out his leg to deny the Spanish defender.
The Spanish perspective
"Today wasn't our day. We have two games ahead of us. We have to find a way to win them." — Coach Vicente del Bosque
The Swiss perspective
"To be fair, I'm not used to scoring goals, so I was a bit surprised. It was a bit of luck." — Midfielder Gelson Fernandes
Switzerland takes on Chile in Port Elizabeth on June 21 (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 9:30 a.m. ET), while Spain meets Honduras the same day in Johannesburg (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 2 p.m. ET).