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Wilkomme to FIFA 2018


Wilkomme to FIFA 2018

Switzerland 2-2 Costa Rica

When you looked at the stats, it was easy to say Wilkomme.

Hours after reigning world champions Germany suffered an ignominious exit, their near neighbours were surely in for a much easier time as Group E at FIFA 2018 reached a climax in Nizhny Novgorod.

Unbeaten in their past four World Cup games against sides from CONCACAF (the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football), against a side without a win in their last four World Cup matches against European sides.

You didn’t need SBOBET odds to tell you that Switzerland were firm favourites.

Highlights of the game

And so it proved.

There was little chance of disruption in the Swiss camp, even with the prospect of being without their two scorers against Serbia – an investigation which ultimately didn’t lead to any sanctions.

They went into this game with the chance of sealing top spot in the group and in a prime position to qualify against opponents already eliminated and with just pride to play for.

So with Germany now out, perhaps the class of 2018 could go beyond the Swiss standard fare of exiting the tournament at the last 16 and become immortal in their own country.

With a well-drilled defence, a resourceful attack and the mercurial talent of Xherdan Shaqiri, it can’t be ruled out, especially if FIFA 2018 results so far are anything to go by.

Initially, Costa Rica threatened a scare.

Yann Sommer produced a fine double save to keep out a Joel Campbell drive and a Celso Borges header – undoubtedly one of the saves of the tournament and one which sparks comparisons with the great Peter Schmeichel.

Then, with Sommer beaten, Daniel Colindres thundered a shot against the crossbar before the shot-stopper denied the same player by turning a shot around the post.

If either had gone in, the spirited Los Ticos may have threatened a shock.

Indeed, it made you wonder why their front three had not been selected for the first two games.

As it turned out, just after the half-hour, Switzerland took the lead against the run of play.

It was a well-worked goal as Blerim Dzemaili, once of Bolton Wanderers, slammed the ball home from close range after Breel Embolo headed Stephan Lichtsteiner’s cross into his path.

The new Arsenal man was booked shortly afterwards – a yellow card which means he will miss the last 16 clash with Sweden – after Dzemaili nearly doubled the lead.

Costa Rica faded as the half drew to a close but, as in the opening stages, started the second half well. They were rewarded when Campbell set up Kendall Watson to expertly head home their first goal of the tournament.

If Switzerland were opting for the stick/twist dilemma at this stage it was understandable and, as news came through of Brazil’s second goal, there was no need to risk all in attack.

Substitute Josip Drmic saw his header from an Embolo cross cannon back off the post, yet it looked like the Borussia Monchengladbach man had won it when he curled a classy first-time shot beyond the impressive Keylor Navas.

Still, the drama wasn’t over. After VAR correctly ruled Bryan Ruiz was offside before he was fouled in the box, Joel Campbell was then brought down in the penalty area and there was no VAR to save the Swiss this time.

A spot-kick was awarded and Ruiz saw his shot hit the crossbar and bounce off the back of Sommer and over the line.

A dramatic end to a lively, engaging game of football which had scenarios galore – it’s what this World Cup’s been all about so far.

Key statistics

Switzerland have scored in every match they have played in 2018.

Yann Sommer is the third goalkeeper to score an own goal at a World Cup after Noel Valladares (Honduras) in 2014 and Andoni Zubizarreta (Spain) in 1998.

Fabian Schar was also booked and will also join Stephan Lichtsteiner in missing the Switzerland-Sweden last 16 clash.

In scoring, Costa Rica became the final side to score a goal at this year’s World Cup.

All four of the European nations that qualified for the World Cup via the play-offs have now reached the knockout stages.

What’s next

Fifa 2018 predictions now suggest a great chance for an outsider to reach the semi-finals. Switzerland are one such team and they will face another, Sweden, in Saint Petersburg on July 3.

It’s home with a degree of pride for the Costa Ricans who are next in action in a friendly against Japan on September 11.

 

 


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