Swiss surprise Spanish in a game they were supposed to lose

2010-06-17 00:00

SWITZERLAND defied massive odds to pull off a 1-0 win over a distinctly dour Spanish outfit at the Moses Mabhida Stadium yesterday.

It was the scrappiest of affairs, and the World Cup’s shortage of goals reached Durban yesterday afternoon.

Spain, long touted as favourites for the title, simply lacked any penetration. Well, at least until the introduction of Liverpool superstar Fernando Torres.

Before that, Spain had much of the ball, but precious little to show for it. The Swiss defence allowed the two Davids, Villa and Silva, to roam with the ball on the fringes of the area, but let little else through.

It was all Spain in the first 20 minutes, with Xabi Alonso and Anders Iniesta pulling the strings from midfield. Gerard Pique had the first genuine sight of goal on 24 minutes, as he danced through the defence much in the same style of his goal for Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final against Inter Milan.

But there was no happy ending this time, as his shot was kept out by the impressive Diego Benaglio in the Swiss goal.

Swiss left-back Reto Ziegler then had a 26th minute free-kick stopped by Iker Casillas, but much of the first-half play was as grim as the weather.

The crowd of 62 000 illustrated as much, with endless Mexican waves the last resort for keeping the masses awake.

Phillipe Senderos limped off with an ankle injury after 35 minutes, and the dreary fist half ended with Iniesta blazing a shot over, and Villa doing all the hard work to fool the keeper, but then fluffing his chip.

The game desperately needed a goal, and it was as chaotic as they come.

Gelson Fernandes finally slotted it home on 52 minutes, but not before Eren Derdiyok had been upended by Casillas, and Pique had been caught by the striker’s flaying boot. Switzerland were already screaming for a penalty, but Fernandes buried the rebound to give the Swiss a lead they scarcely deserved.

The contest, and the crowd for that matter, finally came to life in the final half-an-hour with the introduction of Torres.

The stadium welcomed him with a roar, and “El Nino” responded with an urgency that had been sadly lacking.

Iniesta flashed another shot just past the upright on 64 minutes, before Xabi Alonso clattered the crossbar with a 25-yard screamer. But still the Spanish could not find the net.

Getting increasingly desperate, they left holes at the back. Derdiyok had a great chance to seal the win for the Swiss, but he was kept out by the upright firstly, and then by a brave Pique block.

Spain threw everything at the Swiss in the last 10 minutes, but it simply would not fall for them.

Despite housing some of the game’s best passers in their ranks, many balls went astray in a disconcertingly ragged performance by the European champions.

Spain were the team that everyone wanted to avoid but, on yesterday’s showing, they look just as average as many of the other “favourites”.

It is ironic that Africa’s first World Cup has been greeted by a famine of goals. The crowds are simply starving for more goal-mouth action.

Switzerland’s bench greeted the final whistle by tearing onto the field. This was the match they were supposed to lose, but they now top the group.

For Spain, it is a long way back to the Potchefstroom drawing board.

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