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Victory at the death

Shaqiri and Swiss overcome Ecuador

Xherdan Shaqiri and Switzerland opened their 2014 World Cup campaign with a win against Ecuador on Sunday, but it was a knife-edge affair in the end. “Winning the first match takes a huge weight off our shoulders. It’ll give us a real boost,” commented Shaq, who went the full distance in Brasilia. “Everyone can see we’re a fantastic group capable of turning round difficult games like this. We had more possession, made more chances, and earned our reward at the end.”

In truth Ottmar Hitzfeld’s team struggled for long spells again energetic Ecuador. The disciplined central Americans were always dangerous on the break and deservedly led 1-0 at the break after Enner Valencia headed home a 22nd-minute free-kick. The Swiss came out with renewed enthusiasm after the interval and Admir Mehmedi levelled on 48 minutes with a near carbon-copy of the Ecuadorians’ opener. Freiburg striker Mehmedi had come on as a half-time sub.

However, the Europeans still found chances hard to come by, although a refereeing error cost them a possible equaliser and Shaqiri hit the side-netting with quarter of an hour to play. The drama came to a head in stoppage time: Antonio Valencia was hustled off the ball in the Swiss penalty area as he shaped to win the match for Ecuador, but Hans Seferovic finished from close range as the Swiss poured upfield on the counter-attack. Both goals came from substitutes, a history-making event in itself: no sub had ever before scored for Switzerland in their long World Cup history.