Switzerland basked in a maiden victory over FIFA World Cup™ favourites Spain on Wednesday, coach Ottmar Hitzfeld calling it a "gift" of three unexpected but highly valuable points.
Midfielder Gelson Fernandes scored the sole goal of the Group H match, tapping in after Eren Derdiyok had followed up on a long goal kick in the 51st minute. The Spanish dominated open play, with 63 percent of ball possession, but Hitzfeld said his side, built on a fortress-like defence and outstanding goalkeeper Diego Benaglio, had played out his gameplan to a tee.
"Our objective today was to have two compact rows of players, with two up front," said the German master tactician who guided Bayern Munich to seven Bundesliga titles and is one of just three coaches to win the UEFA Champions League with two different clubs (Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund).
"I told them not to waste energy fighting for the ball, but focus on defence and wait for the counter-attack," he said. "If you play attacking football against Spain, you'll concede one goal after another. We were well organised. There weren't many chances in the first half, there was no fire burning in our box and that gave us confidence.
"In the second half, Spain launched one attack after another. We knew they had to open their defence a bit and we knew that there'd be a chance for a counter-attack. We also knew there wouldn't be that many chances."
I am fully aware we made history.
Hitzfeld added: "It's great to start the tournament with three unexpected points against one of the biggest contenders for the title. I'm very happy to see a strong performance. I have a feeling of great satisfaction. It's an excellent start and exactly what we needed. We'll now go into the Chile match with resolve and a great deal of self-confidence which we need to tackle the more difficult challenges ahead."
Switzerland play Chile in Port Elizabeth on June 21 and Honduras four days later in Bloemfontein, but Hitzfeld said he and his team wanted to first relish a first victory over the Spanish in 19 games and 85 years of fixtures.
"I am fully aware we made history and that it'll go down in the history books as the first time Switzerland has beaten Spain, but there's a first time for everything," he said. "It's a gift we're happy to accept. And now we'll remain totally focused. We'll first celebrate that we won an important match and then will seek to confirm that against Chile and book a place in the last 16."
Goal scorer Fernandes added: "It's a very special moment for the Swiss national team and the country. But we need to keep our feet on the floor, focus on the next game. To win against Spain you need a bit of luck and that's what we had today."