Swiss miss chance against Latvia
© AFP

Switzerland passed up the chance to virtually assure their place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ when they picked up only a point against Latvia in Riga. The Swiss needed to come from behind to secure even a draw, with substitute Eren Derdiyok sparing his side's blushes after goals by Aleksandrs Cauna and Vitalijs Astafjevs had overturned Alexander Frei's opener.

The result leaves Switzerland three points clear of Greece and Latvia in Group 2, with two rounds of matches remaining. The visitors were first to threaten when Marco Padalino directed a header towards Andris Vanins' goal, but the Latvia goalkeeper was not unduly troubled. The hosts responded after 12 minutes when Andrejs Rubins' cross from the left found the head of Maris Verpakovskis, but the Ergotelis striker nodded his effort over the bar.

The lively Rubins produced a spectacular solo run after 35 minutes and crossed low into the box for Verpakovskis, but Steve von Bergen saved the day with a last-ditch tackle. Switzerland went ahead two minutes before half-time, Benjamin Huggel crossing for captain Frei to head into an unguarded net.

Latvia started in promising fashion after the break with Girts Karlsons testing Diego Benaglio's reflexes with a powerful shot from distance two minutes into the second period. The equaliser arrived just after the hour when Verpakovskis' short pass found Cauna in space on the right flank and the Skonto winger curled a fine effort from 25 yards into the top-left corner.

Blaise N'Kufo had a chance to swiftly restore Switzerland's lead, but his low shot from the edge of the area went wide. With 15 minutes remaining, Latvia went ahead when Cauna supplied Astafjevs, who marked the occasion of picking up his 156th international cap by flicking home his side's second goal.

Ottmar Hitzfeld looked to breathe new life into his team by replacing Gelson Fernandes with Derdiyok. And the Bayer Leverkusen forward repaid his coach one minute later by heading an equaliser from a corner with his first touch.