Serbia’s hopes hang by a thread after 2-1 loss Switzerland
Serbia 1 (Mitrovic 5’)
Switzerland 2 (Xhaka 52’, Shaqiri 90’)
By Laurence Kelson
Switzerland has come from behind to steal a late 2-1 victory against Serbia after man-of-the-match Xherdan Shaqiri raced half the length of the pitch to slide home a 90th minute winner in Kaliningrad.
— FIFA World Cup ???? (@FIFAWorldCup) June 22, 2018
The loss means Serbia will have to beat Brazil (28 June 4am AEST) to have any hope of qualifying for the round-of-16 for the first time as an independent nation. They also have to rely on a Costa Rica causing an upset against the Swiss in the final match
Serbia had a perfect start and went one-nil up in the 5th minute when Aleksandar Mitrovic met a perfectly weighted Dusan Tadic cross to head beyond the reach of Swiss keeper Yann Sommer.
The Serbs had a clear-cut chance to go up two-nil in the 44th minute when Tadic put in a sublime corner that avoided every Swiss defender only for Dusko Tosic to completely miss the ball with his attempted header.
The Swiss defenders were under pressure for most of the first half and Fabian Schar looked at a loss after being constantly dominated in the air by Mitrovic.
Despite Serbia’s dangerous attack Switzerland were able to gain the majority possession (58 percent) and control the pace of the game through their midfield.
In the second half the weight of possession finally paid off when midfielder Granit Xhaka charged onto a loose ball outside Serbia’s penalty area and belted a thunderous shot past Serbian goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic to level the scores.
The Swiss were also able to nullify Mitrovic’s aerial threat by shutting down Serbia’s wide players and stopping the flow of crosses to the centre forward target.
With the match into its final minute, Serbia pushed high up the pitch as they looked for the winner but when dispossessed, they were exposed to the Swiss counter and Shaqiri made them pay.
The late winner was the first time at this World Cup that a team has won after conceding the first goal.
The match was not without controversy. A contentious free kick against Mitrovic for wrestling with Swiss defenders in the box looked to be wrongly awarded with the Swiss players holding Mitrovic back from having a shot at goal. Neither the referee or the VAR officials deemed the decision worthy of review.
Ultimately it was Serbia’s poor discipline (four yellow cards), missed chances in front of goal and lack of possession in midfield that saw them lose control of the game.
The Swiss, after a shaky first half, showed why they’re ranked sixth in the world with a clinical second half performance in both attack and defence, and the knockout stage is a certainty if they beat Costa Rica.
Shots on goal (on target)
Serbia 12 (3)
Switzerland 20 (5)
Serbia, Milinkovic-Savic 34’, Milivojevic 39’, Matic 45’+2’, Mitrovic 87’
Switzerland, Shaqiri 90’+1’
Serbia (4-2-3-1): 1 Stojkovic (GK), 3 Tosic, 4 Milivojevic (81’), 6 Ivanovic, 9 Mitrovic, 10 Tadic, 11 Koralov (c), 15 Milenkovic, 17 Kostic (64’), 20 Milinkovic-Savic, 21 Matic
Substitutes: 2 Rukavina, 5 Spajic, 7 Zivkovic, 8 Prijovic, 12 Rajkovic (GK), 13 Veljkovic, 14 Rodic, 16 Grujic, 18 Radonjic (81’), 19 Jovic, 22 Ljajic (64’), 23 Dmitrovic
Switzerland (4-2-3-1):1 Sommer (GK), 2 Lichtsteiner (c), 5 Akanji, 9 Seferovic (46’), 10 Xhaka, 11 Behrami, 13 Rodriguez, 14 Zuber (90’+4), 15 Dzemaili (73’), 22 Schar, 23 Shaqiri
Substitutes:3 Moubandje, 4 Elvedi, 6 Lang, 7 Embolo (73’), 8 Freuler, 12 Mvogo (GK), 16 Fernandes, 17 Zakaria, 18 Gavranovic (46’), 19 Drmic (90+4), 20 Djourou, 21 Burki (GK)