Qualification from the Group E for the World Cup is likely to be a tight affair and Swizterland can take a big step towards the last 16 with victory over rivals Ecuador in today’s Group C opener.
A FIFA ranking of eighth in the world may flatter them a tad but it was earned in fine style with a Group success in European qualifying that saw them win seven games and come home seven points clear of Iceland. Since then, they have beaten Germany, Croatia and no less than Brazil in friendlies to earn themselves such a seeding and there’s no doubting their abilities to go head to head with the very best.
Ecudador beat Uruguay to the last automatic spot to get into Brazil, but that form that been shown up by a horrendous performance from the Uruguayans last night and away from the attitude of Quito, based at 2,800 meters above sea level, they took just 3 of their 25 points. Away defeats to Chile, Colombia, and Argentina are understandable from a form point of view but they also lost at bottom placed Paraguay and third last Peru which does not bode well for the finals here. In the last 4 World Cup qualifying campaigns Ecuador have lost just 4 of their 38 games at home, which goes some way to explaining their magnificent home record.
The heat of Brazilia – this match is taking place at 1pm in Brazil – is likely to be an asset for the Ecuadorians and one that cannot be underplayed but they have been knocked out of the first round at the last 4 Copa Americas, which does not bode well for their group stage chances in general, and the technical ability of Switzerland is likely to be testing for a defence that has been exposed upon regular occasion. The Swiss’s decision to stay in Natal before the game to acclimatise may work and in Valon Berahmi and Gokhan Inler they have a pair of midfielders that could give them the advantage and in a forward trio of Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka, and Valentin Stocker the Swiss have pace and power in equal measure and against an Ecuadorian team that can often be left exposed as Ayovi and Paredes, brilliant as they are, push forward regularly and the centrebacks Erazo and Gagua have looked very shaky for the side.
Australia took a 3-0 lead against them before they pulled things back and Mexico eventually ran out comprehensive winners against Reuda’s side, and the Swiss have the skill and pace to edge what could be a very tight game here and kickstart their Group E charge.
2 pt Swizterland (7/5 general)