Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Switzerland 1 Spain 0 and the 2010 World Cup has the shock it so badly needed. Forget the Vuvuzelas, try a cow bell!

Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition. They do now. Don’t you just love this game? This World Cup? We’ve sat for days waiting for a shock, a pulse-racing moment. We’ve seen South Korea beat Greece 2-0, we’ve seen North Korea push Brazil and lose 2-1.

But blimey, nobody expected an under-strength Switzerland to beat Spain, the reigning European champions, officially the second best side in the world, unofficially the favourites for the 2010 World Cup.

In the first half they played like typical Spanish matadors from La Liga. All pretty passing and 72 percent possession, cloaks flying, glittering blades flailing about. But no true footballing passion, no hunger for the goal. Like so many in this tournament so far, they were reluctant to take risks, push on.

And then the moment of all moments for Swiss football. The men from the mountains haven’t beaten Spain in 18 attempts. The fancy-pants millionaires have lost just once in 48 games (though they did lose to the US at the Confederations Cup here). And then Gelson Fernandes got the goal that shook the world.

How do I describe this great goal? A mess? Lanky Swiss striker Eren Derdiyok fell over a long ball, long-lasting goalkeeper Iker Casillas and the elegant Gerard Pique fumbled about a bit so Fernandes stuck it in, like a true centre-forward the mud and thunder of a Sunday League brawl. Only this was Durban, in front of 60,000 in the magnificent Moses Mabhida Stadium.

What a truly wonderful moment. Chris Waddle, the former England international, said on the BBC: "You can't explain what's happened out there - that's the wonder of football. Switzerland have had one chance, they've taken it, and otherwise all they've done is defend. Fair play to them. Saying that, there's a fair while to go yet."

I love this game. Mission Impossible this was, and the Swiss barely got a touch in the first half, kicking everything that moved, even their own players.

With Andreas Iniesta playing out of his skin, Spain were never going to lie down. They threw on Liverpool’s Fernando Torres next to David Villa, the £37m Barcelona signing who has forgotten how to shoot with this superlight Jabulani ball. Then Xabi Alonso crashed in a shot from outside the box, but it thudded off the bar, the nearest we’ve seen to a long-range goal all week.

But with the cow-bells of the Swiss competing with the Africa Vuvuzelas, Derdiyok’s long legs weaved a way through at the other end, and the world’s 24th best side hit the post. Ooooh. Don’t tell me this World Cup lacks atmosphere... you could cut it with a violet Vuvuzela at that point.

Spain, with all those Barcelona and Real Madrid stars, were chasing the game. Given Chile’s win over Honduras in Nelspruit earlier in the day, defeat was out of the question for Vincente del Bosques superstars. So who do they take off? Iniesta, unquestionably the best player we have seen in action here so far. But no place for Arsenal’s benched superstar Cesc Fabregas, as Spain turned to Pedro.

You couldn’t take your eyes off this one. Enough of the Italians meandering, the Portuguese struggling, the goalkeepers throwing the ball in the net.

This was World Cup football at its finest. But the Swiss, without their three finest players – Stefan Frei, Vallon Behrami and Phillipe Senderos who was injured crashing into his own player in the first half – simply refused to buckle.

With ten to go Jesus Navas crash one inches wide of Diego Benaglio's right-hand post. But even Jesus wasn’t going to save this Spanish armada.

Steve von Bergen, on for Senderos, didn’t miss a header in a congested penalty area. Benaglio got a glove to anything and everything.

And then the whistle. Spain beaten. Otto Hitzfeld hugging everyone. The spaniards had 24 shots on goal, nada, nix, nothing to show for it. And amid the hullaballoo, there was Fernandes, grinning.

You wanted something special? You got it!

Neal Collins is in South Africa to promote his first novel, A GAME APART. To find out more, see

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