Despite being 2-1 down, coach Murat Yakin’s team prevailed in a delicate duel. The goals for Switzerland are scored by Shaqiri, Embolo and Freuler. In the parallel game, Cameroon surprisingly beat group leaders Brazil 1-0, but the Africans are still eliminated.
It was a wild ride at the 974 Stadium in Doha, probably the most entertaining game in the era of coach Murat Yakin, this duel between Switzerland and Serbia. Games for all or nothing are often characterized by passivity, by restraint, as if one could feel the importance of the game. But Friday night was different.
Switzerland took the lead early on: After a quick attack by Ricardo Rodriguez, Xherdan Shaqiri scored to make it 1-0 in the 20th minute. Shaqiri, 31, was whistled at by the Serbian crowd every time he touched the ball – not everyone forgave him for his celebration in the 2-1 win against Serbia four years ago at the World Cup in Russia; the “double eagle affair” from back then had made the headlines in recent days. Shaqiri missed the 1-0 draw with Brazil with a thigh injury, but he was an asset against Serbia.
But the exhilaration after Shaqiri’s exclamation mark didn’t last long: A double strike by Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic within nine minutes ensured that Switzerland was behind after 35 minutes. Manuel Akanji was a step too late when he conceded the first goal, the Serbian opening goal didn’t work at all in the Swiss defense, it was frightening how easily Vlahovic, who was employed by Juventus Turin, got his goal; especially Remo Freuler and Shaqiri did not give a good figure.
1/8 FINAL, DONE! ✅?
Switzerland is in the fifth round of 16 in a row (WM & EM)
La Suisse se qualifie pour les houitièmes de finale pour la 5e fois de suite (Mondial & EURO)
La Svizzera accede agli ottavi per la 5a volta di fila (Mondiali & Europei) pic.twitter.com/leYmfvxlZZ
— ?? Nati (@nati_sfv_asf) December 2, 2022
Without Elvedi and Sommer
Perhaps the most important quality of the Swiss team in the Yakin months so far was how well organized the team was under this coach, how orderly the game was: the midfield was always compact and the opponents could hardly overcome it. Getting two hits in a very short time in such a big game: that was atypical. It may also have been due to the fact that Switzerland had to do without important players in defence: goalkeeper Yann Sommer and central defender Nico Elvedi were both absent, having already missed Thursday’s training session due to a flu infection. They were replaced by Gregor Kobel, goalkeeper from Borussia Dortmund, and Fabian Schär from Newcastle United.
But regardless of the personal situation: what was rational, expected, normal about this game? It was a celebration of football, a spectacular, open-minded slugfest between two bitter rivals – in which Switzerland kept the better end to themselves.
The Swiss turned the game around thanks to goals from Breel Embolo and Remo Freuler. Shaqiri was also the focus of Freuler’s winning goal in the 48th minute: he crossed from the right into the penalty area, Ruben Vargas ran through the defence, drew two defenders and put a hoe back to Freuler, who only pushed in from eleven meters had to. It was an impressive performance by Shaqiri, who completed his eleventh World Cup appearance and thus became the Swiss record World Cup player.
It was the reward for a courageous, mature performance against an opponent who seemed increasingly to be losing their nerve. While Switzerland looked calm and controlled even after falling behind. After the 3:2, the team led by Captain Granit Xhaka confidently managed the lead. The opponent, meanwhile, seemed to be losing faith in the next turnaround, apart from frustration fouls there was not much to see from the obviously tired Serbs, a total of seven Serbian players were cautioned. The YB offensive player Christian Fassnacht could have scored the fourth goal shortly before the end. Otherwise, the Swiss largely stopped their offensive efforts.
Before the game it was expected that a draw would be enough for the Swiss to advance. But this World Cup preliminary round has brought to light quite a few strange results in the last group matchdays, because some favorites who have already qualified for the round of 16 saved their best energy.
It was no different for Brazil: the big title favorites lost 1-0 to Cameroon, Vincent Aboubakar decided the game in added time. The team from Africa could still have been dangerous for Switzerland despite the defeat in the direct duel (0:1). On the other hand, a fourth Swiss goal would have meant victory in the group, which would have resulted in a promising rendez-vous with South Korea.
And then there were 16…
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Good record against Portugal
Instead, Switzerland will meet Portugal, top of Group H after losing their meaningless game against South Korea 2-1 on Friday at the Lusail Stadium on Tuesday night. After the duels with Brazil and Serbia, Switzerland will play the role of outsider for the third time at this World Cup against the Portuguese.
But Switzerland has a positive international record against these opponents with eleven wins, five draws and nine defeats. Most recently, the Swiss won 1-0 against Portugal in the Nations League in June, with attacker Haris Seferovic scoring the decisive goal.
Serbia – Switzerland 2:3 (2:2).
Stadium 974, Doha. – 41 378 spectators. – Referee: Rapallini (ARG). – Goals: 20. Shaqiri 0-1. 26. Mitrovic 1-1. 35.Vlahovic 2-1. 44. Embolo 2:2. 48. Freuler 2:3.
Serbia: Vanja Milinkovic Savic; Milenkovic, Veljkovic (55th Gudelj), Pavlovic; Zivkovic (78th Radonjic), Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (67th Maksimovic), Lukic, Kostic; Tadic (78th Djuricic); Vlahovic (Jovic 55), Mitrovic.
Switzerland: Kobel; Widmer, Akanji, Schär, Rodriguez; Freuler, Xhaka; Shaqiri (68 Zakaria), Sow (68 Fernandes), Vargas (83 Fassnacht); Embolo (96th Okafor).
Remarks: Serbia complete. Switzerland without Sommer, Elvedi and Köhn (all sick). 11. Zivkovic hit the post. Cautions: 15. Widmer. 34.Vargas. 46. Sergei Milinkovic-Savic. 56. Pavlovic. 67. Rajkovic (not on the field). 81. Gudelj. 82. Mitrovic. 95.Milenkovic. 95. Xhaka. 99. Schar.
Final ranking group G: 1. Brazil 3/6 (3-1). 2. Switzerland 3/6 (4:3). 3. Cameroon 3/4 (4:4). 4. Serbia 3/1 (5-8).
Round of 16 pairings: Brazil – South Korea, Portugal – Switzerland.