Switzerland and Honduras were both eliminated from the World Cup as they played out a goalless draw in the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein. Both sides needed to win by at least two goals, as well as hoping Spain’s match with Chile ended favourably, in order to qualify. Regrettably neither side could conjure up enough creativity to threaten Spain and Chile’s presence in the second-round.
Swiss striker Eren Derdiyok had the closest sight of goal when he poorly headed the ball wide at the back post. Blaise Nkufo then should have put Switzerland ahead in the closing stages of the first half. Just a few yards out from goal, he didn’t judge the flight of the ball, and tried to control it when a header would surely have put his side 1-0 up. Switzerland showed some urgency by bringing on Hakan Yakin at half-time, at least demonstrating some offensive tactics. But it was Honduras who should have opened the scoring in the 50th minute, when David Suazo woefully headed wide from six yards. With 20 minutes left, Edgar Alvarez forced Diego Benaglio into a stunning save to keep it goalless.
Ottmar Hitzfield sent on his captain, Alexander Frei, but even he couldn’t help the Swiss carve out a chance. They were hindered, in part, by Derdiyok’s confidence-crisis in front of the goal. Honduras had the ball in the net with six minutes left as it seemed all hope was lost, but Georgie Welcome was offside as he tapped it into an open goal. Shortly after, how Osman Chavez failed to knock the ball into an open goal from a set-piece, he will never know. Neither side has disgraced themselves in a group that they never expected to qualify from. For the Hondurans and the Swiss, attention will turn to appearing at the next World Cup in four years time.
With all due respect to Honduras, their biggest achievement was to even reached this summer’s World Cup, which is just the second in their history. It is just a pity, for the sake of a footballing minnow, that once their status in the World Cup was secure, they couldn’t put on more of a show.
Honduras’ best known player is Wilson Palacios, the dogged defensive midfielder who plays for Tottenham. Whilst he is a very good player in his own right, it is unfortunate that the rest of the Honduran team is built in the same mould. The Central American team are all tall, athletic, and certainly don’t shirk a tackle, but their ability to keep the ball is woeful. The best known Palacios brother is certainly not known for his distribution, and the rest of the Honduran side wasn’t much better tonight against Switzerland. Edgar Alvarez and David Suazo, two players well known in Italy’s Serie A for their attacking talents, certainly didn’t shine tonight. Suazo is his country’s best goal-threat, and he came into the World Cup unfit. He certainly hasn’t looked like the player who has a fearsome goals-per-game ratio in Italy. Honduras’ cause hasn’t been helped by Carlos Pavon, their highest goalscorer of all time, being benched by Reinaldo Rueda.
To credit the Hondurans, they had better chances than their opponents tonight. Suazo should have scored early in the second half but wasted his header, before Alvarez did everything right with his control and shot – only to be denied by a world-class save. It seemed Hondurans were simply destined to go goalless through the World Cup. Switzerland, for their part, weren’t any better in terms of creating chances. The clean-sheet record that they set for World Cups in their previous match is a shocking statistic – but shows that Ottmar Hitzfield’s men are capable of blocking any route to their own goal. Scoring goals themselves has been the problem.
Blaise Nkufo’s laughable attempt to control the ball just a couple of yards from goal was evidence of Switzerland’s ineptitude in front of goal. Hitzfield brought on Hakan Yakin, the set-piece expert, to brighten them up in the second period. He has more ability to unlock a defence than anybody else in the Swiss squad, and considering their task was to win by two goals or more, it begs the question why Yakin didn’t start. His tame free-kick, however, summed up the lack of ideas on the pitch. Even the presence of Switzerland’s record goalscorer Alexander Frei couldn’t inspire them in the last 20 minutes. To say that Switzerland and Honduras lacked the quality to progress from the group stage would be a fair assessment to anyone who has watched them in the past few weeks. Their heart and dedication hasn’t been in question, though, and neither side would look out of place at the next World Cup in Brazil.
Switzerland – Benaglio, Lichtsteiner, Von Bergen, Grichting, Ziegler, Huggel (Shakiri 78), Barnetta, Inler, Fernandes (46), Nfuko (Frei 69), Derdiyok
Honduras – Valladares, Chavez, Figueroa, Bernandez, Mauricio Sabillon, Thomas, Nunez (Martinez 67), Wilson Palacios, Alvarez, Jerry Palacios (Georgie Welcome 79), Suazo (Turcios 87)