Talking Points: Spain 0-1 Switzerland

by Neil Sherwin

1. Swiss Roll Over Spain

The headline writes itself and will no doubt be repeated across the globe, but it sums up the situation perfectly as the tournament’s first genuine shock took place today. Switzerland parked the bus and just stopped short of letting down the tyres at times as they attempted to snuff out the Spanish passing game. The tactics were incredibly effective with the reigning European Champions failing to create many clear cut chances. Ottmar Hitzfeld has again proved himself to be a wiley old fox and will rightly come out of this one with all the plaudits while his opposite number Vincent del Bosque won’t fancy facing the Spanish media after this result. Spain’s misery was added to further when Andres Iniesta, who had been a doubt coming into the game, limped off injured late on.

2. Sergio-No-No

The inclusion of Sergio Busquets from the start wasn’t too much of a baffling decision but as the game wore on it became all too clear that his presence was not required in a packed middle of the park. Del Bosque’s stubborness resulted in no substitutions until after his side had gone a goal down, despite the Barcelona man being affectively redundant in his role. Switzerland offered very little in an attacking capacity thanks to the two lines of four players camped between the centre circle and their own goal so a holding midfielder was of no use. Both Xabi Alonso and Xavi Hernandez saw plenty of the ball and one has to wonder if things could have been different if they had another target ahead of them causing problems for that tight Swiss unit.

3. Against All Odds

The odds were heavily stacked against Switzerland going into the game as some bookies offered a very nice 13/1 on them to win. With star striker Alexander Frei and midfielder Valon Behrami absent through injury, most people would have lumped heavily on a Spanish victory. Those bets looked even smarter when Phillippe Senderos limped off for the Swiss in the first half, but Gelson Fernandes’ strike meant it was a bad afternoon for punters.

4. Defending From The Front

Replacing your team’s most well known player is never an easy task, but 22 year old Eren Derdiyok filled the hole left by the injureed Alexander Frei superbly. It was generally a thankless job for the big striker as he ran from side to side on his own, but it set the tone for his teammates. Indeed the Bayer Leverkusen man was almost rewarded with a goal for his efforts, but struck the post after a mazy run. Derdiyok got more than a helping hand from midfielder and captain Gokhan Inler who was still biting at the heals of Xavi in the closing stages of the game. Hitzfeld’s plan to defend and completely stifle Spain worked to a tee, and Switzerland have now not conceded a goal in 484 minutes of World Cup action having kept a quartet of clean sheets in Germany four ago. Even more importantly, they have now given themselves a real chance of emulating their 2006 achievement of advancing to the knockout stages.

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