Switzerland began their campaign with an epic, last-gasp victory over Ecuador in Group E, seeing a winner by Haris Seferovic pierce the net in the 93rd minute.
Enner Valencia had given La Tri the lead early on with a powerful header from a great free-kick, only for substitute Admir Mehmedi to hit back soon after the break.
Valon Behrami surged forward out of defence in the final minute of the game following a goal-saving block, fed Ricardo Rodriguez for a cross and Seferovic tapped home to steal the points.
Formations and XIs
Switzerland set up their standard 4-2-3-1 formation, and the XI was exactly as predicted in our preview. Johan Djourou started over Fabian Schaer, Josip Drmic got the nod up front and Granit Xhaka played as a No. 10.
Ecuador played a 4-4-1-1/4-4-2 with Enner Valencia just off target man Felipe Caicedo. Jefferson Montero played from the left and Antonio Valencia from the right.
As we saw during qualifying and the warm-up games, Ecuador largely abandon the centre of the park while attacking and focus on the wings.
Feeding balls into Montero and E. Valencia's feet and allowing them to run is Reinaldo Rueda's primary strategy, and Switzerland's full-backs came under immediate pressure from the off.
The Swiss took a while to get going, struggling to retain possession and failing to flick quick balls out to the wide areas to press forward. Gokhan Inler eventually began finding space to slot midfielders in between the lines, but they should have used the three-versus-two advantage in the centre far more productively and far more often.
Just as it seemed as though Ottmar Hitzfeld's men were finding their (belated) stride, Ecuador scored a classic sucker-punch goal.
They drew a foul on the left and Walter Ayovi swung a vicious ball in, pitching it up for E. Valencia to head home brilliantly from close range.
La Tri then dropped into a very low defensive block, forcing Switzerland to pick the lock and try to close out space in the middle. The Swiss moved the ball ridiculously slowly and missed several chances to switch play, contributing to a grinding, workmanlike pace to the game and shooting themselves in the foot.
Despite having Stephan Lichtsteiner and Ricardo Rodriguez, Hitzfeld's men failed to use the flanks appropriately and kept taking absurd short corners rather than whipping in wicked deliveries.
Switzerland came out of the blocks in the second half firing, with renewed pace, tempo, energy and plenty of space in which to work.
Hitzfeld pushed Xherdan Shaqiri inside to the No. 10 position, Xhaka to the right and swapped Valentin Stocker for Mehmedi on the left. Mehmedi headed into the net within minutes, justifying the substitution with a goal, but his biggest impact was his directness between the lines.
Stocker had been static, offering little running and failing to sniff out good positions between Ecuador's (stretched) lines. Mehmedi was far more productive, and Shaqiri playing inside allowed him to drop, pick the ball up off Inler and surge forward at pace.
Drmic scored midway through the second half, but it was called offside, and the Swiss had to wait until the final minute of the game to confirm a much-needed victory.
Seferovic's tap-in was good, but the buildup play preceding it—from Behrami's surge to Rodriguez's break—epitomised what Hitzfeld had sought to create at half-time: runners between the lines making the difference.
We came exceptionally close to the first draw of the tournament here, but Seferovic wasn't ready to ruin the ride just yet.
That said, Switzerland promised so much on paper but spent the first half out of sync and standing still. They improved in the second half thanks to Hitzfeld's genius switch, but there is still a lot of progress to make here.
They also didn't do the basics right—all in all, a very un-Hitzfeld-like performance.
Ecuador was as advertised: pace, power and directness but no finesse in the middle. They tackle and rush, and that's fine, but they won't be troubling the top sides in the competition.
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