It was a fight for every inch of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium: a fight between Chile, who would not cease their attacks, and Switzerland, who barely understand the meaning of the word ‘surrender’. It’s a shame this was another epic fight that had a referee decide it. It ended Chile 1, Switzerland 0.
The African World Cup is firmly on its way to becoming a South American World Cup. The excellent Chilean side is yet another one that looks clearly on its way to the next round.
And yet, their victory came only after a decent dose of help from the Saudi Arabian referee, Khalil Al Ghamdi, whose mistakes left Swiss coach Hitzfeld incandescent with rage and played a major role in the European team being defeated. Al Ghamdi’s ridiculously harsh interpretation of the rules saw him dish out nine yellow cards and a straight red card for Swiss attacker Behrami. Chile’s Suazo is also the holder of probably the fastest yellow card ever, earning it after only 72 seconds.
As a result, Al Ghamdi dominated the game instead of refereeing it. Perhaps the officials at Fifa should finally start thinking of how much their stranglehold on refereeing is hurting the game, when common sense would serve it better. Soccer and all of us are worse off owing to the robotic dictates by Fifa’s powers that be and something needs to be done about this, soon. In contrast to Al Ghamdi’s sense of self-importance, his cavalier attitude towards the different-coloured pieces of cardboard in his pocket, the fact that the game’s decisive goal came after a clear offside remained almost unnoticed. Sad.
Which is a shame, because the Chilean team this year are first class. Their team is excellently balanced and consists of players who are as technically brilliant as they are tenacious and motivated. Their defence is so strong and composed that the Swiss mustered only one real chance, which Derdiyok proceeded to miss.
Let’s also spare a minute to reflect on Switzerland. They are great fighters and will probably be able to eke out their ticket to the next round by defeating Honduras in their next match of Group H. Their coach Hitzfeld is a wily old fox and they are still full of energy.
Despite their win today, Chile are still not sure of their passage through. They could still be stopped by Spain, whose life will depend on winning against them. That would bring the final standing of Group D to three teams having six points each, which could be great fun.
Here are the reporter’s notes:
Chile: Bravo, Carrizo, Isla, Medel, Jara, Carmona, Vidal, Fernandez, Sanchez, Suazo, Beausejour
Switzerland: Benaglio, Lichtsteiner, von Bergen, Grichting, Ziegler, Huggel, Inler, Behrami, Fernandes, Frei, Nkufo
Man of the match
- 2nd minute: Earliest yellow card for the World Cup so far: Humberto Suazo from Chile gets one after 70 seconds. It will be difficult to beat that record.
Chile is going to be a much tougher opponent for Switzerland to surprise than Spain. The Chileans are well-prepared, tactically strong and have no shadow of inevitable victory hanging over them.
- 8th minute: Free kick for the Swiss, with a cross that flies harmlessly high over the crossbar.
For the Swiss to win this one, they will have to lure the Chileans deep into their territory and then attempt speedy counter-attacks. It might not work against an opponent as organised as Chile.
- 10th minute: Vidal’s long-range shot is repelled by Swiss keeper Diego Benaglio, only to land in the path of the galloping Carmona, whose shot was much tougher for the keeper to save.
- 12th minute: A threatening run by Sanchez on the right-hand side.
Both teams are playing well and the game is rather interesting. Let’s hope it continues the same way.
- 18th minute: The second yellow card of the game, for the attacker Nkufo, may be a worry for Swiss coach Hitzfeld.
- 22nd minute: Chile’s Carmona gets a yellow card; he will miss the next match against Spain.
- 25th minute: Chile’s Ponze gets a yellow card. Unlike in Cape Town early today, it’s raining yellow cards in Port Elizabeth.
- 31st minute: Switzerland’s Behrami gets a red card! He elbowed two players in a row and the referee’s decision was a straight red card. Needless to say, his team mates and coach Hitzfeld are incandescent with rage. Referee Khalil Al Ghamdi is not interested.
Photo: Switzerland’s Steve Von Bergen clears the ball away in front of team mate goalkeeper Diego Benaglio (L) and Chile’s Alexis Sanchez (R) during the 2010 World Cup Group H match at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth June 21, 2010. REUTERS/Michael Buholzer
Behrami’s sending off has given a massive advantage to Chile. It is now even more likely that the Swiss will now try to button down their hatches completely. Remember, Switzerland will be happy with the draw, as they hope Honduras will be a less of challenge in the last round. From their side, Chile need a victory, and will not rest until they break the Swiss defence.
Let the siege of Switzerland at PE begin.
- 40th minute: Suazo finds Sanchez in a very good position on the right-hand side of the five-metre box but he disappoints by shooting straight into the keeper.
- 42nd minute: Chile attacks wildly, hoping to make a dent before the Swiss can have a half-time rest.
- 42nd minute: Switzerland’s veteran striker-midfielder Frei is replaced by the defensive midfielder Barnetta.
- 44th minute: A Swiss free kick/cross ends in a meek shot by Nkufo.
The Swiss are not having best of times, but they appear to be a tough outfit and may just defend well enough in this game.
- 46th minute Sanchez’s cross is deflected and turned into shot, but the keeper manages to save it. The Swiss keeper looks unperturbed, always a good sign.
The first half ends.
- 48th minute: Barnetta gets the first yellow card of the second half.
- 48th minute: Chile’s Sanchez scores and everyone is screaming, only for the goal to be disallowed for the small matter of three players being offside.
- 50th minute: Sanchez is denied at the last moment by the Swiss defence. How long before they give up?
- 55th minute: Sanchez is alone in front of Benagio, who bravely dives into the attacker’s feet to stop the ball.
- 59th minute: A scrum of players from both sides ends in Swiss captain Inler and Chile’s Fernandez both getting yellow cards.
- 61st minute: Another yellow card, now for Chile’s Medel. Switzerland’s von Bergen playacts shamelessly.
The referee seems to losing the control of the game.
Chile really needs to win this game. Way too many of its players will not be able to play against Spain.
- 63rd minute: Switzerland’s attempt at a counter-attack was harmlessly defused by retreating Chilean defenders.
- 66th minute: A free kick for the Swiss. The Shot/cross is deflected and flies dangerously past Bravo’s far post. A tense moment for Chile.
- 75th minute: Chile breaks the deadlock! Gonzalez’s header is way too tough for the Swiss defence to stop, after substitute Esteban Paredes pulled Benaglio out of his gates and then lobbed the ball onto Gonzalez’s awaiting forehead. Great goal.
Photo: Chile’s Mark Gonzalez (11) celebrates his goal with teammates Carlos Carmona (L) and Alexis Sanchez as Switzerland’s Gokhan Inler walks by during a 2010 World Cup Group H match at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth June 21, 2010. REUTERS/Yves Herman
- 80th minute: The tempo has picked up a couple of notches since Chile’s goal. The Swiss now have to push forward, which the Chileans are very happy to accept.
- 82nd minute: A free kick for the Swiss, who have now thrown caution down the wind, ends in a whimper.
- 84th minute: A great opportunity for Paredes, who shoots wide of the goal, alone and on his favourite left foot, from less than 10 metres. He buries his face in his hands when he misses.
The Swiss do not appear to understand how to attack when the opponent is not very interested in dropping their guard. They do not appear to be able to endanger Chile’s posts.
- 87th minute: Gonzales should have done much more than simply pass the ball to Benaglio from no more than 12 metres.
- 89th minute: Paredes defeated Benaglio but missed the post closer to him by inches.
- 90th minute: Switzerland’s Derdiyok misses what looked like a certain goal. He could have easily equalised for the Swiss, and Hitzfeld will rue this missed opportunity for many years to come.
- 92nd minute: A yellow card for Valdivia, after diving in the Swiss penalty box, which is shame because he could have scored had he not cared more about playacting.
- 93rd minute: Match ends.
By Branko Brkic
Photo: Switzerland’s Valon Behrami (C) reacts after he was shown the red card during a 2010 World Cup Group H match against Chile at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth June 21, 2010. REUTERS/Yves Herman (SOUTH AFRICA – Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP)