After North Korea gave Brazil a battling display on Tuesday, leaving the pre-tournament favourites with something to think about, one of the other most likely winners were hoping to show their class and overcome their opponents with ease. Switzerland, however, had other plans. Although Spain had more chances, they could not break through a stubborn Swiss defence, and with their opponents set up to defend, counter attacks were always going to be on the agenda. In a first round featuring just 25 goals, and not one team really showing dominance against a competent opponent, this World Cup is still wide open.
The Spain side, without Fabregas and Torres, who started on the bench, were, in fairness, the better team. They controlled possesion and had a few chances to put themselves in front. However a defensive mix-up between Iker Casillas in goal and Gerard Pique let former Manchester City man Gelson Fernandes in, and he bundled the ball across the line. Spain were shellshocked. With Torres now partnering David Villa up front, a partnership to send shivers down the spine of any defender, Spain pushed on for an equaliser. Xabi Alonso’s shot crashed against the crossbar, a sign of how things were not going to go Spain’s way. When the fourth official held up the board signalling five minutes of added time, some of the Swiss players looked exhausted and feared the worst. But they held on, providing the biggest shock of the tournament so far.
Spain will now probably have to beat both Chile and Honduras to top the group and avoid a probable tie with Brazil. The gap between the two teams today was evident to see. Chile dominated, and a man of the match performance from wide man Alexis Sanchez played its part in a comfortable win. Despite it being comfortable, though, Chile’s goal was somewhat fortuitous. A low cross came across the area, and the stretching Honduran defender knocked the ball onto the advancing Chilean striker’s knee and into the net. Chile could’ve scored more and probably should have doubled their lead when Ponce’s header, from no more than five yards out was saved by the Honduras keeper. But Chile’s performance was certainly encouraging and they have a great shout of advancing through to the last 16.
South Africa now face being the first hosts in World Cup history not to qualify from the group stages, unless they defeat France next week. This comes after they were comprehensively beaten 3-0 by Uruguay. Manchester United fans will be wondering whether they watched the same Diego Forlan that graced Old Trafford for two years. Forlan, who was poor (to put it lightly) during his spell at United, put in a brilliant performance, scoring two goals, and piling misery on the hosts. South Africa were simply well beaten. A deflected Forlan goal halfway into the first half got things going. South Africa keeper Khune was later sent off for bringing down a Uruguay striker when through on goal, and Forlan converted the penalty. A late third sealed things, and South Africa will have to improve dramatically to stand any chance of pulling off a shock result against Raymond Domenech’s France team.
Spain ftw!!! I love that team! But it looks like this is an unpredictable win. And I hope South Africa can stay in the running, but I’m unsure about the match between France. I’m not putting any bets on it.