Switzerland arrived in South Africa with an injured skipper and striker in Alex Frei and without much in the way of pedigree, star power, reputation or expectation. But after beating joint-favourites Spain 1-0 in their opening game in Durban – one of the stories of the first week – they sit joint-top of Group H.
"We came here with very few people thinking we had much of a chance," striker Blaise Nkufo told FIFA.com. "But we had a very strong game-plan against Spain, we knew how to play them and we carried out the manager's orders to the letter," added the Congolese-born forward who was not included in the side that fell at the group stage as hosts of UEFA EURO 2008. As the players celebrated their historic win over the European champions, however, the mood turned quickly from raucous to realistic.
"This is a good win, it’s important to win the first game but it is behind us now," goalkeeper Diego Benaglio said. "It's already in the past as far as I'm concerned. We need to keep our feet on the ground and continue to do the right things in training and in our two upcoming games." The Wolfsburg custodian made no fewer than eight saves in the win against Spain – a victory earned with hardly any ball possession and some desperate last-ditch defending. "We don’t want that big win to be our only win here in South Africa," he added.
Benaglio is right to have his worries, as his Swiss did not escape their contest with La Roja unscathed. Influential centre-back Philippe Senderos limped off with a serious ankle injury after 36 minutes and has been ruled out of the next two games – first against Chile and then Honduras – by the team's medical staff. "It's a huge loss for us," forward Eren Derdiyok told FIFA.com. "It's a cruel thing for a player to get injured so early in the biggest tournament in the world."
It is not the first time Senderos has wobbled off on the world stage, the former Arsenal man suffering a wrist injury four years ago in Germany in the team's third group game. "It's also a major blow for our team here in South Africa," continued Derdiyok, who set up Gelson Fernandes's winning goal against the run of play in the 52nd minute. As the highs of their big win – "the biggest in Switzerland's history" according to Nkufo – fade into the cold grey of the morning after, the team are looking ahead.
"It's important that we don't just sit back and enjoy this one too much," Nkufo added, looking ahead to Monday's clash with Chile, who share top spot in the section after beating Central American minnows Honduras. "If we are too busy thinking about the result from the other night we might forget what it was that earned it for us. There is no more yesterday, only focus as a team, hard work and the next game."