Africa, Sport

The country that invented the best European football gets whacked by the country that invented the cuckoo clock

The country that invented the best European football gets whacked by the country that invented the cuckoo clock

In what is really the first big upset of the 2010 World Cup, Spain is knocked out by the not much fancied Swiss players. Once and again, the old rule is proven: in big tournaments, all the dancing around the penalty box matters not; the ball in the net does. Swiss one, Spain zero.

The Spanish team arrived in South Africa as the one fancied to take on the Brazilians in the finals. Their star-studded team includes the best players from the best teams playing in the best leagues of Europe. The Swiss team sports mostly local players, and many of them are not of a German, Italian or French background. The team’s stars could also play for Turkey, Ghana or Brazil and are all coached by the wily Ottmar Hitzfeld, who happens to be a winner of two European Champions leagues, with Bayern Munich and Borusia Dortmund, among his 19 major titles.

Hitzfeld put together a team of workers that would just not budge. And not unlike Pit-bull terriers, they just wouldn’t let go: the game at the Durban stadium was a perfect example of what a team of well-organised hard workers can do to a team of globally recognised stars: a lot of damage, that is. Now they stand on the brink of going to the next round, a great result for the team whose chances against Spain were seen as near zero.

Photo: Switzerland’s Reto Ziegler fights for the ball with Spain’s Jesus Navas (L) during a 2010 World Cup Group H match at Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban June 16, 2010. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Make no mistake, Spain’s is a supremely talented team that will probably find its way into the next round. They had their chances, and Xavi Alonso’s second-half kick was so powerful that it created its own gravity field. But wounded the Spaniards are, and they have proven mortal on their first test. It will take an extraordinary effort by coach Del Boske to enable them to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and reinvent their World Cup campaign. But we have seen more improbable comebacks than having to win against Honduras and Chile in order to advance. The Spaniards are certainly capable of it, but they will have to do it so in world where their margin of error has shrunk to a zero. Not the easiest of tasks.

Starting line-ups

Spain: Casillas; Pique; Puyol; Capdevila; Sergio Ramos; Iniesta; Xavi; Alonso; Busquets; Silva; Villa

Switzerland: Benaglio; Lichtsteiner; Senderos; Grichting; Ziegler; Huggel; Barnetta; Inler; Fernandes; Nkufo; Derdiyok

Man of the match


First half

  • 2nd minute: Spain immediately settle into their passing game.
  • 3rd minute: Free kick to Spain. Xavi takes it, but it is cleared by the Swiss.
  • 8th minute: Switzerland have hardly touched the ball.
  • 12th minute: Xavi is caught offside after Sergio Ramos flicks it into the Swiss penalty area.

Vicente del Bosque, Spain’s coach, has aged somewhat since his time at Real Madrid. He oversaw Madrid’s Los Galacticos days, so he’s no stranger to winning.

  • 15th minute: Credit to the Swiss defence, they’ve managed to prevent the Spaniards from shooting.
  • 16th minute: David Silva finally gets a shot in, but it’s tame and Benaglio has no trouble with it at all.
  • 17th minute: Ramos tries to fire in a goal from a narrow angle, but it’s wide. Maicon’s goal last night is going to be nigh impossible to replicate.
  • 21st minute: Iniesta gets another shot at goal, but it’s no challenge for Benaglio.

Ottmar Hitzfeld, the Swiss coach, looks intensely uncomfortable.

  • 24th minute: Pique gets the best opportunity in the game so far to fire it in, but can’t get it past Benaglio
  • 25th minute: Xavi kicks the ball away on the edge of the Spanish penalty area, but Inler gets a boot in the face, and it’s a free kick.
  • 25th minute: Ziegler’s free kick is fumbled and then saved by Iker Casillas.
  • 29th minute: Free kick to Spain on the edge of the Swiss area. Yellow card for Grichting for pulling Iniesta down. Lucky it wasn’t a penalty.
  • 30th minute: David Villa’s free kick smacks into the wall, and it’s a corner.
  • 31st minute: Iniesta is brought down again. Free kick to Spain. Virtually every single Swiss player on the field goes into the penalty area.

Phillipe Senderos sustained an injury quite a few minutes ago, and has been off the field for a while now. It might be the end of the match for him.

  • 35th minute: And indeed, Senderos comes off for Stephen von Bergen.
  • 37th minute: Xavi’s cross is turned limply to goal by Ramos. Benaglio scoops it up.

Photo: Spain’s David Villa (L) goes over Switzerland’s goalkeeper Diego Benaglio during a 2010 World Cup Group H match at Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban June 16, 2010. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

  • 37th minute: corner for Switzerland. Nkufo tries to cross it back into the penalty box, but it’s cleared.
  • 40th minute: Xabi Alonso attempts a volley, but it goes high.

Spain has enormous talent on the bench. Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas can be brought on, if need be. Any other team and they’d have started.

  • 43rd minute: Poor shot by Iniesta, after Villa and Xavi set him up.
  • 44th minute: Iniesta sets Villa up, who opts to cross it instead of shooting. There’s no one on the far end of the Swiss penalty area to pick the cross up.

End of the first half. For all their possession, Spain have had precious few chances at goal.

Pique, Puyol, Iniesta, Xavi, Busquets and Villa all play their club football in Barcelona, which won this year’s La Liga.

Second half

  • 46th minute: David Silva’s cross is blocked. Corner. Xabi Alonso sends the cross into the evening sky.
  • 47th minute: Grichting fouls Villa, and Spain get a free kick.
  • 49th minute: Iniesta sets Villa up for a shot, but he can’t get it past the Swiss defenders.
  • 49th minute: Alonso fires in a shot, far better effort this time, but Grichting headers it out for a corner.
  • 50th minute: Busquets forces a save out of Benaglio.

Photo: Switzerland’s Gelson Fernandes (in white) scores past Spain’s goalkeeper Iker Casillas (1) during a 2010 World Cup Group H match at Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban June 16, 2010. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

  • 51st minute: Switzerland scores! Horrible Spanish defending gifts Gelson Fernandez a shot at goal, and he capitalises quickly.

Well, this is a score-line no one would have predicted.

  • 54th minute: a Silva cross is intercepted by Benaglio.

Fernando Torres is warming up.

  • 56th minute: There’s sense of belief now in Switzerland’s play. Spain are, for now, gob smacked.
  • 57th minute: Villa’s curling shot is saved by Benaglio.
  • 58th minute: Brilliant play from Ramos turns Fernandez inside out, but it’s a corner.
  • 59th minute: Xavi’s cross from corner is headed high by Ramos.
  • 60th minute: Villa makes a break
  • 61st minute: A roar from vuvuzelas announces the arrival of Torres, who comes on for Busquets. Jesus Navas comes on for Silva.
  • 62nd minute: A vicious shot by Iniesta goes wide.
  • 67th minute: Torres overruns a cross from Villa, and has to turn to shoot, but it’s wide. The entire stadium was on its feet there.
  • 68th minute: Fernandez fires a header wide. The Swiss are getting more chances now that the Spanish have poured forward.
  • 69th minute: A shot at goal is turned by Benaglio.
  • 69th minute: A thunderous drive by Alonso beats Benaglio and strikes the upright post. Torres has certainly brought in more creativity to the Spanish side.
  • 71st minute: Navas beats Ziegler, but his shot is saved by Benaglio. Spain are getting a shot a minute now… It’s only a matter of time before they score.
  • 73rd minute: Ziegler’s pull at Navas earns him a yellow card.
  • 74th minute: Switzerland almost gets a second goal!
  • 75th minute: A huge tackle on Iniesta by Lichtsteiner brings him down, and he goes off for medical help.
  • 76th minute: Iniesta can’t continue, and is replaced by Pedro of Barcelona.
  • 78th minute: A shot by Jesus Navas is inches wide of Benaglio’s goal.
  • 78th minute: A second change for Switzerland. Derdiyok comes off for Hakin Yakin.

Ten minutes to go: are we about to witness the biggest upset this World Cup?

  • 81st minute: Barnetta’s shot is inches too high.
  • 82nd minute: Inler’s shot is turned wide.
  • 83rd minute: Fernandez fouls Alonso, and Spain have a free kick. Nothing comes of it.
  • 84th minute: Villa’s header is missed by Torres.
  • 85th minute: Navas’s cross is caught cleanly by Benaglio.
  • 86th minute: Torres tries to volley a cross from Navas, but it goes high.
  • 87th minute: Torres gets another chance, but pushes it too far and Benaglio gets to the ball first.

Spain are too anxious in attack; too aware of impending doom.

Five minutes of extra time.

  • 91st minute: Yellow card to the Swiss goalie Benaglio for time wasting.
  • 92nd minute: Barnetta comes off for Eggimann. Here’s a time wasting technique the referee can’t book for.
  • 93rd minute: Free kick to Switzerland after Benaglio is bundled off the ball.
  • 93rd minute: Yakin gets a yellow card, and Spain have a free kick in a great area. Villa wastes it.

Spain have lost the match! End of second half.

Photo: Switzerland’s Gokhan Inler (L) and other teammates celebrate after their 2010 World Cup Group H match against Spain at Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban June 16, 2010. REUTERS/Paul Hanna

Report by Branko Brkic. Notes by Sipho Hlongwane.

Main photo: Spain’s Sergio Ramos (L) fights for the ball against Switzerland’s goalkeeper Diego Benaglio during the 2010 World Cup Group H match at Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban June 16, 2010. REUTERS/Marcelo Del Pozo


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