Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth is set to play host to an intriguing clash of styles on 21 June, when Chile take on Switzerland in their second Group H encounter at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. Both sides kicked off their campaigns here in South Africa with 1-0 wins, with the livewire Chileans sinking Honduras and the resilient Swiss turning over European champions Spain.
Switzerland’s shock victory over the Spanish in Durban, secured by Gelson Fernandes’ 52nd-minute strike, underlined the defensive strength of a team that also played four games at Germany 2006 without conceding a goal. Now under the guidance of vastly experienced boss Ottmar Hitzfeld, the Helvetians worked overtime to nullify a La Selección attack which had hit 28 goals in ten European Zone qualifiers.
Nor can they expect a breather against Marcelo Bielsa’s all-action Chile side, noted for their non-stop attacking play and packed with young and gifted performers. Even without leading striker Humberto Suazo against Honduras, La Roja’s clutch of small, speedy front-runners created a host of presentable chances, though eventually had to settle for a win by the narrowest of margins.
Finally, the three points secured in their respective openers mean that, in the case of a draw in the Spain-Honduras clash in Johannesburg, a win for either Chile or Switzerland would guarantee them a place in the Round of 16.
Tall, agile and experienced, the 27-year-old Swiss keeper is at the peak of his powers, as he showed with a number of key stops against David Villa and Co. His next challenge will be to deny La Roja’s prolific front-man Suazo, who top scored with ten goals in South American Zone qualifying. Having missed the game against Los Catrachos with a muscle strain, could the Real Zaragoza hitman finally end Die Nati’s run of five consecutive clean sheets in FIFA World Cup finals action?
67 – The number of minutes Switzerland need to go without conceding against Chile to set a new record at the finals. Die Eidgenossen’s landmark currently stands at 484 minutes, the third best of all time, behind only Italy’s 550-minute record (set between 17 June 1986 and 3 July 1990) and England’s tally of 501 minutes (16 June 1982 to 3 June 1986).
What they said
“We don’t need to get the calculators out, because our fate is entirely in our own hands. Besides which, we’re not going to change of style of play because we’re taking on Switzerland. We always play the same way, as we showed against Honduras,” Luis Marin, Chile goalkeeper.
“We know we have to focus on playing well against Chile because it’s no good beating Spain and then playing badly in the next game. We know that we achieved something great and we’re all proud for our country, but we need to play a solid match against Chile because it’ll be another tough game,” Switzerland defender Reto Ziegler.
Voice of the fans
“This is going to be a demanding and difficult game. My feeling is that Chile are going to make it 1-0 in the first half and win the game eventually 2-1 or 2-0. The Swiss defence is fantastic, though at the moment they’re having to cope with some last-minute injuries. It goes without saying that Chile are much better going forward than Switzerland. The question is whether the Swiss fortress can hold out to the end or will cede to the pressure earlier,” Zellgadus, FIFA.com user.
Will Switzerland avoid conceding long enough in order to set a FIFA World Cup record? Or will the Chileans’ darting front-line create enough havoc to win the game and go clear at the top of Group H?