Switzerland’s lack of eagerness to attack cost them dear in their Group H encounter against a stylish Chilean side, who created far more in means of forward play and attempts on goal. Despite losing to Chile, Switzerland still have every chance of advancing through the group stage. A victory over Honduras in their final game should be enough but goal difference could play a crucial part in deciding which two sides make it to the second round.
Swiss Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld made three changes to the starting XI that defeated Spain in their opening fixture. Steve von Bergen, who played superbly against the Spaniards in the centre of defence, started due to Phillippe Senderos failure to overcome his leg injury, which he sustained in the same fixture. Surprisingly, West Ham midfielder Valon Behrami was preferred to Tranquillo Barnetta, who has been an ever-present in Hitzfeld’s side since he began his reign. Captain Alexander Frei also returned to the side in place of Eren Derdiyok. Hitzfeld decided to stick with his trusted and tried 4-4-2 formation, which has worked so well for his side, during qualification and the game against Spain.
Days before the encounter, Hitzfeld had already talked up the talent of the South American side and knew just what to expect. “This team (Chile) really impressed me. Firstly in qualifying. Not many teams end up finishing above Argentina. Against Honduras, the Chileans were unbelievable and they could have 3-0 or 4-0 instead of 1-0. They are a solid unit, with very fast players.”
Chile have been praised for the attacking style and with a formation of 3-3-1-3, you would find it hard to find another team quite like it. However, the Swiss have always been a hard team to break down, and after holding out for 70 minutes of the game they had broken the record for the longest time without conceding a goal at a World Cup, which had dated back to 1994.
The Swiss defence had to deal with the constant barrage of Chile attacks from the first minute of the game. However, Chile’s eagerness to win the ball back as soon as possible was not to the approval of referee, Khalil Al-Ghamdi, who was in the mood to blow his whistle at any given opportunity. Six Chilean players in total were booked throughout the duration of the game. This played into the hands of the well-structured Swiss who were looking to break up Chile’s movement.
The referee took centre stage once more in the 40th minute when he sent of Behrami for raising his arm into the face of Arturo Vidal. It was a strange sequence of alterations between Behrami and two Chilean players. He had shrugged off the first challenge with his left arm, and was soon challenged by Vidal, where the incident reached a decisive moment. The referee consulted with his lineman before deciding to send off the Swiss midfielder. It was a highly debateable red card as you could tell Behrami had no intention to elbow Vidal, but at this level you cannot raise your arms at any moment during the game. Hitzfeld was furious with the referee’s decision.
After holding Chile at bay for large period of the game with just 10 men, the deadlock was finally broken. A mistake by von Bergen allowed Chile to break down the right, which allowed Alexis S