Switzerland came from behind to beat Ecuador in dramatic fashion in Brasília. In an entertaining Group E opener Ecuador took the lead only to be pegged back early in the second half, and then concede the winner with just seconds left in stoppage time.
Ecuador broke the deadlock midway through the first half when striker Enner Valencia capitalised on being left completely unmarked in the Swiss penalty area. Valencia got his head on a Walter Ayoví free-kick home from point-blank range against the run of a decent spell of Swiss possession. Despite Ottmar Hitzfeld's side seeing much of the ball, they couldn't convert it into anything meaningful.
Ecuador kept Switzerland at bay through halftime with a mixture of good defending and equally good fortune. The Europeans had a good penalty shout turned down with 10 minutes of the half remaining when the ball struck the arms of a couple of Ecuador defenders in quick succession, and Xherdan Shaqiri and Gökhan Inler both had long-range efforts turned away by goalkeeper Alexander Domínguez. Switzerland were banging on the door quite loudly, but they couldn't break it down.
At halftime, Hitzfeld felt a different tool was needed for the task, and threw striker Admir Mehmedi on for winger Valentin Stocker. It was a perfect change from the wily old tactician, and it paid dividends within three minutes of the restart. Ricardo Rodríguez delivered an inch-perfect corner into the Ecuador box, which the newly-introduced Mehmedi powered home to instantaneously even things up.
The equaliser forced Ecuador back onto the front foot again, with Reinaldo Rueda's side pushing higher up the field in a bid to retake the lead. They went close through Enner Valencia just short of the hour, but the goalscorer's spectacular attempt from the edge of the area went just wide. Jefferson Montero continued to cause problems for Switzerland down the left too, and forced Benaglio into a low stop with just over 20 minutes remaining.
Last minute miracle
Last minute miracle
But while Ecuador looked more dangerous from open play, Switzerland's attacking pace meant they were always a threat on the counter-attack. Josip Drmić had a scrappy goal chalked off somewhat-dubiously for offside shortly before Shaqiri lashed the ball into Domínguez's side-netting. Ecuador responded with a free-kick from Michael Arroyo that squirmed through the wall, but an excellent reaction save from Diego Benaglio kept the scores level.
It would prove to be a crucial save, as another of Hitzfeld's substitutes, Haris Seferović, popped up in stoppage time to win the game for La Nati. With the midfield blown wide open through an Ecuador attack, Rodríguez found space out left and delivered a low cross for Seferović to smash home. Harsh on Ecuador, probably, though this World Cup continues to produce pure sporting drama.
Switzerland: Benaglio; Rodríguez, von Bergen, Djourou, Lichtsteiner; Inler, Behrami; Stocker (Mehmedi 46'), Xhaka, Shaqiri; Drmić (Seferović 76).
Goals: Mehmedi (48'), Seferović (90+3').
Ecuador: Domínguez; Ayoví, Erazo, Guagua, Paredes; Montero (Rojas 76'), Noboa, Gruezo, A. Valencia; E. Valencia, Caicedo (Arroyo 70').
Goals: E. Valencia (22').