The atmosphere at the Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha in Brasilia is electric. The Group E clash between Ecuador and Switzerland at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ is deep into stoppage time, with the game evenly poised at 1-1. Both sides could yet snatch all three points. Spurred on by most of the 68,351 fans in the arena, the South Americans pour forward one last time in search of a winner.
The Ecuadorians attack down the right-hand side before playing the ball in towards the penalty spot. But just as goalkeeper Diego Benaglio prepares to make a save from a man in yellow, Valon Behrami dives in with a wonderful last-ditch slide tackle. Having blocked the shot, he picks himself up and drives forward. He then wins another challenge in midfield before passing the ball to a team-mate in the move that ultimately leads to Switzerland's last-gasp winner. “The goal that won us the game was absolutely crazy,” recalls the shot-stopper with immense satisfaction, the day after the match in an interview with FIFA.
The three points will have certainly boosted Switzerland's self-belief, especially after snatching victory in such dramatic fashion. However, the 30-year-old VfL Wolfsburg keeper knows all too well that victory in the opening match offers no guarantees, having seen the Eidgenossen fail to qualify for the knockout stages four years ago in South Africa despite opening their campaign with a shock 1-0 win over reigning European champions Spain. Benaglio was part of that Switzerland side and is urging his team-mates not to get too carried away.
A different set of circumstances
“Of course, the atmosphere is good, but I think that everyone who was involved four years ago is wary of what can happen. We've learnt our lesson.” Benaglio, who has 57 caps, is clearly determined not to make the same mistake again. Admittedly, the circumstances are not quite the same as they were in South Africa in 2010, when Spain were the clear group favourites and Switzerland did not face their rivals for second place until later in the group stage. This time “we've already won against a competitor for a spot in the next round, so things already look brighter than at the last World Cup.”
Benaglio and co. will go into their next clash with Group E favourites France brimming with confidence after their last-minute winner against the Ecuadorians. And should the Nati prevail over Les Bleus in Salvador, it would be the first time that any Switzerland side has ever won their first two matches at a World Cup finals. Much more importantly though, it would be a huge step towards securing a place in the Round of 16.
The 1.95m-tall stopper firmly believes that he and his team-mates will rise to the challenge in South America: “We've learnt our lessons from 2010 and made so much progress. Now it is time to go out there and show what we can do."