As expected, Spain had the lion's share of the possession in their opening Group H match against Switzerland in Durban, pressing their opponents back for long periods of the game. What was not in the script, however, was Gelson Fernandes's scrappy goal seven minutes after half-time, a goal that proved enough to secure a truly unexpected win for the battling Swiss.
Despite garnering 75 per cent possession in the first 45 minutes, La Roja fashioned few clear chances and only a trickle of shots on goal. And with David Villa drifting out to the left much of the time, the Spanish attack lacked a focal point. Stunned by Fernandes's shock strike, the result of an unseemly scramble in the Spain box, the European champions strove to restore parity.
Yet though the subsequent introduction of Fernando Torres, Jesus Navas and Pedro provided more of a presence up front, Vicente del Bosque's thoroughbreds could find no way back, despite their superior shot count of 24 to Switzerland's eight. "The last pass was missing today," metronomic midfielder Xavi Hernandez acknowledged afterwards. "We weren't up to standard in front of goal and our finishing wasn't sharp enough. But that's football. We created more chances than them but it just wasn’t our day."
When you don't take your chances, you pay for it
"When you don't take your chances, you pay for it," added a crestfallen Iker Casillas, while substitute Pedro was equally downcast at Spain's inability to pick the Swiss lock. "They kept their shape and it was very hard work. We couldn't find any gaps or spaces and we just couldn't play our way through. All we can do is congratulate Switzerland because they played a really good game." Del Bosque added: "We tried to get down the flanks but they defended well. We weren't precise enough in the final third although we dominated the game from start to finish, apart from one counter-attack."
As far as midfielder Sergio Busquets was concerned, all Spain were lacking was the rub of the green. "Luck was not on our side. If it wasn't their keeper making a save, then it was the ball going just wide. But we've got the quality and character to pick ourselves up and keep going." Spain's misfortune was Switzerland's joy, which was heightened by the fact this was their first ever win over the southern Europeans. "We were a little lucky but you're always going to need a bit of good fortune if you want to beat Spain," said their elated matchwinner Fernandes, who was only too glad to accept the break that came Switzerland's way.