By RYAN TOLMICH
For 92-and-a-half minutes, both Switzerland and Ecuador looked to be content with emerging from their World Cup openers with a crucial point towards emerging from Group E. But, while hard-earned point would have been nothing to be an embarrassed about, Swiss substitute Haris Seferovic went out and snatched all three.
It was the 22-year-old Seferovic that earned his nation the victory via a 93rd minute winner, as the Swiss knocked off Ecuador 2-1 by scoring on virtually the last kick of the ball.
With the score knotted at one, it looked to be the Ecuadorians who had the chance to steal a victory, as forward Michael Arroyo found space in the Swiss box. The 27-year-old waited and waited, as the Swiss defense broke up the play and came sprinting out of their own end.
Swiss midfielder Valon Behrami fought his way through a foul and fully utilized the referee’s advantage on his way for the Swiss winner. Behrami was knocked down in the midfield, took a tumble and powered his way back onto the ball, keeping the Swiss attack on the front foot.
Behrami continued to push the Swiss attack, which found Ricardo Rodriguez on the wing. Rodriguez played a cross near post and into the path of a cutting Seferovic, who tapped past Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez to kickoff the Swiss’ tournament with all three points.
After prodding through the game’s opening 20 minutes, it were the Ecuadorians who actually opened the scoring by way of forward Enner Valencia in the 21st. Ecuador winger Jefferson Montero did the initial dirty work by earning his side a free kick to the left of the Switzerland box. Left back Walter Ayovi stepped up and delivered the ball on a platter to his Pachuca teammate Valencia, whose open header left little chance for Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio as Ecuador took a 1-0 lead into halftime.
The Swiss emerged from halftime and equalized almost immediately by scoring on a set piece of their own in the 48th minute. The goal came via the head of substitute Admir Mehmedi, who had been introduced to the action at halftime. Mehmedi’s finish came off of a Switzerland corner, as Rodriguez picked up his first assist of the day to bring the score to 1-1.
The pace of the game got fast and furious in the game’s 70th minute with both sides missing chances to go out and grab a win from their opening game.
The Swiss appeared to have snatched the victory in the 70th, with forward Josip Drmic actually finding the back of the net, only for the linesman to rule the finish offside. Star midfield Xherdan Shaqiri then missed his best chance of the day int he 73rd by firing into the side netting on a Swiss breakout. Ecuador responded with a chance of their own in the 74th when Benaglio came charging out of his own net, leaving his defense to extinguish an Ecuadorian opportunity.
The action in the 70s did little to prepare viewers for the game’s furious finish, as the Swiss counter ensured the the tournament would have to wait yet another game to experience its first draw.