Sunday, November 14, 2010

Spain Falls To Switzerland In World Cup Group Play

By Ross Everett

Switzerland used a Gelson Fernandez goal in the 52nd minute to shock Spain 1-0 in perhaps the biggest upset of the opening round of World Cup play. Spain entered the competition as one of the favorites to win the entire tournament, but was shut down by a feisty Switzerland defense. Spain controlled possession throughout and outshot their opponents 25-9, but only 5 of their shots were 'on goal'. It was the 5th consecutive World Cup shutout for the Swiss team, who made it through the entire 2006 World Cup without conceding a goal before being eliminated on penalty kicks in the quarterfinals.

Not surprisingly, the Switzerland victory also produced a hefty soccer betting payday for their financial supporters. The Swiss were a +1100 underdog to take three points from their opening game. Spain had been installed as a -400 favorite, with the odds on the draw priced at +400. And has become the common refrain during this very low scoring World Cup, the single goal scored went well UNDER the posted total of 2'.

Switzerland employs a 'bend but don't break' defensive style, which allowed Spain to control possession and play but yielded very few significant scoring chances. For the game, Spain held a 74% to 26% time of possession advantage and outshot Switzerland 25-9. Spain's passing game was beautiful-they completed 574 passes, which is the most so far in the 2010 tournament. That is small consolation to the Group H favorites who now find themselves without a point after one game.

After Gelson Fernandez scored on a rare Swiss counterattack, Spain wasn't able to recover. After the game Fernandez seemed as shocked by his second goal in International play as anyone:

"To be fair, I'm not used to scoring goals, so I was a bit surprised. It was a bit of luck."

Switzerland coach said that not playing Spain's preferred style was the key to victory:

"These were three unexpected points. If you play an attacking game against Spain, you'll lose and suffer one goal after the next."

Spanish coach Vincente del Bosque was philosophic about the loss:

"Today wasn't our day. We have two games ahead of us. We have to find a way to win them."

Despite Spain's #1 FIFA ranking and status as pre tournament favorites, they had a lot of history against them. Only two of the last eight reigning European champions have won their opening match in the World Cup, with the last being Germany in 1998. Furthermore, Spain has never advanced past the quarterfinals in World Cup play since its fourth place finish in 1950.

None of this will help Honduras, who'll have to face Spain in the second game of Group H play. Their undisciplined play combined with a formidable foe that needs to win will most likely produce a blowout result. Spain will have a more difficult time against a solid Chile side in their final Group H game. Switzerland will look to continue their defensive mastery of opponents on Saturday against Chile before they finish their group play schedule on June 25 against Honduras.

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