The first game of Group E play for the FIFA World Cup saw Switzerland rally late in the game behind its bench to earn a 2-1 win over Ecuador. Admir Mehmedi and Haris Seferović entered in the second half and were the game changers for the Swiss, while Xherdan Shaqiri showed why he is one of the best young talents in Switzerland.
The first half of the game saw the Swiss attacking hard, but losing control of the middle of the field. They also allowed Ecuador to get in behind their defense several times, narrowly escaping disaster in a few occasions. Switzerland saw opportunities with Shaqiri, but nothing stuck in the first 45 minutes for the men in red.
It stuck for Ecuador, though, in the 22nd minute. La Tri came out attacking as well, and a desperate tackle by Stephan Lichtsteiner on Jefferson Montero led to a free kick from just outside the box on the left side. Walter Ayoví curved the ball perfectly into the center of the six yard box, and Enner Valencia jumped over his defender and headed it into the net.
Ecuador rejoiced at having struck first, and Switzerland was suddenly trailing. They redoubled their efforts to attack, almost getting caught on defense a couple more times, but the half came to an end without any further goals.
Switzerland must have taken the early result personally, as they got a shot off on goal almost immediately following the second half kickoff. The ball was deflected wide for a corner, which Ricardo Rodríguez took, placing it exactly on Mehmedi’s head. Mehmedi, who came into the game just after the half started for Valentin Stocker, barely had to jump to beat his defender and even the score for the Swiss.
Play became rougher in the final 40 minutes. Lichtsteiner took down Montero, and then Juan Carlos Paredes was shown the first yellow card of the game for tackling Mehmedi from behind. Switzerland dominated in the air and on free balls, but Ecuador nearly took the lead when Valencia beat goalkeeper Diego Benaglio to a long ball, but Steve von Bergen got behind Valencia to save the goal.
Christian Noboa fouled Shaqiri right at the top of the 18 yard box, and the Swiss thought their chance had come, but the fancy free kick ricocheted off of the wall and Ecuador turned to counter. Valencia started a run on a long pass from midfield, but was taken down by Johan Djourou, who received a yellow for the foul.
As the final 10 minutes ticked by, Switzerland became more determined not to take the first draw of the World Cup. Shaqiri came at the defense again and again, but made rookie mistakes that left him unable to capitalize. Three minutes of stoppage time came on the clock, and the game looked to be over. The Swiss just would not give up, though, looking for their usual late rally to take a 2-1 lead and pull off the win for the first game of Group E play in the 2014 World Cup.
It was with 20 seconds left in extra time that the Swiss did what the Swiss do best, executing a perfect play and taking the lead as time expired. Valon Behrami made a superb tackle to win the ball in the Swiss box before being taken down at midfield, but jumped to his feet and counted the play on advantage, crossing it wide to Rodriguez, who barely got his left foot on the ball to bring it down.
Rodriguez dribbled into the box, beating his defender and crossing the ball low along the ground to the near post. Seferović, who substituted for Josip Drmić in the 75th minute, made the run to the near side and flicked the ball just past goalkeeper Máximo Banguera and into the net.
Switzerland had barely finished celebrating before the whistle blew to signal the end of their first World Cup match, giving them a 2-1 win over Ecuador and first place in Group E thanks to a late rally from the bench. France plays Honduras in the next match for Group E play, and France and Switzerland will meet later this week to truly determine the top of the bracket.
Commentary by Christina Jones