When the Swiss people voted recently to restrict the levels of immigration into their country, you assume those who endorsed the measure were not football fans.
The substitute was left unmarked at the near post as he converted a 93rd minute cross from the left following a rapid counter-attack to send the Swiss fans into raptures.
Both the goals that gave Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side a dramatic victory in Brasilia were scored by players with their roots in the former Yugoslavia. Haris Seferovic, who finished off a brilliantly-executed counter-attack in the last moments of stoppage time, is the child of immigrants from what is now Bosnia while Admir Mehmedi came to Switzerland as a two-year-old from Macedonia.
Both were latecomers to this game, having been introduced as substitutes by Hitzfeld. Switzerland may be the strangest seeds of this World Cup but the changes Hitzfeld made demonstrated why they have a significant advantage with a man who has master-minded two European Cup wins. Sixty-five he may be but Hitzfeld’s mind is still as sharp as a razor blade.
The game might have finished with Ecuador snatching the winner but for a superb blocking tackle from the Serbian-born Valon Behrami which launched a counter-attack that finished with Seferovic clipping the ball home. The Uzbekistan referee, Ravshan Irmatov, deserves considerable credit for waving play on after a foul in the final move.
Mehmedi equalised three minutes after coming on as a half-time substitute with a close-range header that was similar to Enner Valencia’s opener for Ecuador in that it was delivered inside the six-yard box from a shoddily-defended set piece. In Germany eight years ago, Switzerland found themselves knocked out without having conceded a goal – they lost on penalties to Ukraine. In South Africa the problem was scoring. Having opened with a victory over Spain in Durban, they did not put the ball in the net again and failed to escape their group.
Hitzfeld pointed out this was a younger, better side than the one he had taken to South Africa. In the shape of Xerdan Shaqiri, another who came to Switzerland as a toddler from the disintegrating state of Yugoslavia, it had an edge.
Nevertheless, Ecuador deserved a point. They took the lead midway through the first half as Valencia headed home a beautifully-delivered free-kick from inside the six-yard box. It was not the last time Walter Ayovi would threaten the Swiss like this.
Four minutes from the end, Diego Benaglio saved smartly when an Ayovi free-kick deflected off the wall. Earlier, he had turned a Jefferson Montero shot athletically wide.
The stadium in Brasilia is named after Mane Garrincha, best described as a Brazilian Paul Gascoigne in terms of natural skill, the poverty of his upbringing and his taste for alcohol. He practically won Brazil the 1962 World Cup on his own and would have enjoyed the flowing move that led to Switzerland’s winner.
As an outsider himself, he would also have appreciated the play of Ricardo Rodriguez who set up both Swiss goals. His father is Spanish and his mother Chilean.
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