Switzerland 0-0 Honduras

Posted: June 25, 2010 in Pubs, World Cup
Tags: , , , ,

Switzerland, you defensive, non-scoring beasts. In 2006 Switzerland were eliminated in the second round despite not conceding a single goal, the first side to do so. They also became the first side to lose on penalties in a World Cup without scoring a single one themselves. Before Chile breached their ten men last week – the only side of 3 to do so – they had set a new World Cup record of total minutes without conceding. They’re a defensive machine.

Unfortunately, four years on, they are out. They were pitched into a tough group but ultimately scored 1 conceded 1 is never likely to be enough. That they managed a draw at all here, despite much huff and puff, was largely down to the brilliance of Diego Benaglio in the sticks – arguably the keeper of the World Cup so far.

In 2008 I watched Switzerland v Turkey in the St Moritz Club on Wardour Street, and it was such a great experience that there was never any doubt of getting back there tonight. For starters I had been looking forward to some bratwurst (insert own sausauge-Soho joke here) for about 3 days.

St Moritz itself is a restaurant, but the club is downstairs in a bit of a cave. It is great, benches all laid out, “HOPP SCHWIIZ!” scarves and flags everywhere, big tv showing the game on a Swiss channel. This is the first time all tournament I’ve watched a game on something other than BBC or ITV and stupid as it sounds it does make a difference. I didn’t have a clue what people were saying, and neither did my part-Swiss mate, but it adds to the atmosphere. Swiss Mountain Beer in hand, we held out for all of 15 minutes before ordering the obligatory non-euphemistic sausauge avec potato salad which was absolutely cracking but also absolutely overpriced at £10. I remind myself that I had already come to terms with the fact that this World Cup would set me back a few quid. I also remember that my only visit to Switzerland also revealed it to be hideously overpriced, at least in the surreal ski-resort surroundings that I found myself in. Anyway, we got there about 90 mins before kick-off which proved a good move as the place was rammed from 7 and we had to battle to hold a seat for the fourth member of our party. At that point they were still, inevitably, showing Roger Federer effortlessly defeating someone else on Centre Court.

The game itself meandered slowly in the first half – the most interesting moments coming in split-screen going to the other game in the group. First Villa clipped in a frankly beautiful left-footed finish from 40 yards when the Chilean keeper had charged out, then Spain added a second. To make matters worse, from what we could see, Chile had had a man sent off for a foul in the build-up to the goal, which effectively sealed the match for the European champions. It looked like a ridiculously harsh red card; Torres going down like Dave Bassett’s daughter after a seemingly-accidental clipping of the heels. Haven’t seen any highlights yet so perhaps I’m wrong but it looked like a bum decision.

That 2-0 scoreline didn’t change much for Switzerland; one goal for them would see them through. Unfortunately the first half had been largely uneventful, and Ottmar Hitzfeld threw on Hakan Yakin at half-time. Before he could have any impact, though, Chile pulled one back via a deflection and that certainly changed things – Switzerland now needed two.

As with Denmark last night, they pressured and knocked on the proverbial door but struggled to cut through a strong, powerful Honduran team. A freekick was flicked over the bar from six yards when a scuff would probably have been enough, and some excellent deliveries from out wide from the likes of Tranquillo Barnetta saw little reward. Yakin, at the centrepoint of most things good, delayed and chose to shoot when a pass looked a better option, and the keeper saved. A deft backheel put the substitute Frei in but the keeper made a great save, and the flag was up anyway.

The atmosphere in St Moritz was passionate but slightly subdued. A few attacking moves saw fans get to their feet but all too often there were “aaaaaahs” of disappointment rather than encouragement. My mate managed to incite a couple of “hopp Schwiiz!” chants to go along with the occasional “allez, allez allez allez…” as Switzerland pressured, but it felt like a 0-0 game from about 40 minutes onwards.

Honduras broke frequently and in numbers, and should have nicked a goal somewhere along the line. Late on a corner skidded across the goalmouth with two men failing to get a touch, and previous to that a great cross had been scuffed instead of buried with the bonce of the attacker. The best chance of the whole match came on one such counter with Honduras outnumbering the defenders, Alvarez was played in on goal and his firm strike seemed destined for the net but Benaglio produced the save of the tournament to date, off-balance but twisting to throw a strong arm at the ball and turn it over. It was a top save.

The Hondurans were mildly impressive. This is the second time I’ve seen them and they sort of look like a moderate-to-decent side, but every time they do something good (strong tackle in midfield, nice trick, good through ball) they then fucked it up and made themselves look like what they really were – World Cup cannon fodder. However, there were some wonderfully crunching challenges, with the Swiss defender Grichting copping the worst of it on several occasions, including a jaw-rearranging clash of heads that, given the slow-mo treatment, made the eyes water. He spat afterwards and I genuinely thought a tooth or two flopped out with it.

There was to be no late drama. Spain v Chile finished 2-1 and this game petered out with Honduras looking more likely to score. The final whistle blew and Switzerland, a side who had beaten the possible/probable world champions were gone.

There was a smattering of applause from the Swiss fans in St Moritz but overall silence. Regret not upset. It must be easier that way. Neutrality must be a wonderful thing. Football eh? Meh.

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