BRASILIA – A goal deep in stoppage-time by Haris Seferovic gave Switzerland a dramatic 2-1 victory over Ecuador in their Group E opener at the World Cup on Sunday.
A low-quality match looked destined to end in a draw until substitute Seferovic fired home the winner from close range in the last of three minutes of injury time. Ecuador barely had time to restart before the final whistle was blown.
Enner Valencia gave Ecuador the lead in the 22nd minute at Estadio Nacional in the Brazilian capital. That came after abject defending and Switzerland’s equalizer in the 48th was in the same vein, Admir Mehmedi — another substitute — heading home from close range.
It was the fifth time in nine matches so far at this World Cup that a team had come from behind to win.
After being among the bores of the last two World Cups, it was expected to be different for Switzerland — ranked No. 6 by FIFA and the top-seeded team in a group also containing France and Honduras.
Its young, dynamic class of 2014, who came up together through the national youth ranks, provided drama with the late, late goal but had offered little in the previous 92 minutes.
They were especially disappointing in the first half, misplacing passes and overhitting crosses. Usually the Swiss can rely on a watertight defense that had conceded just once in its previous seven World Cup matches, but not this time.
Valencia stole a yard on Johan Djourou and had the simple task of guiding a glancing header into the net, with Switzerland goalkeeper Diego Benaglio left completely stranded.
Ottmar Hitzfeld’s team did most of the attacking but lacked a cutting edge, leading the experienced coach to change things around at halftime and introduce Mehmedi for Valentin Stocker. And the substitute made an instant impact.
Again it was dreadful marking as Mehmedi held off two challengers to meet Ricardo Rodriguez’s 48th-minute corner with a simple header.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter was present — and was booed by sections of the crowd — at what will probably go down as the poorest game so far at this year’s tournament in Brazil, in terms of quality.
However, with what was nearly the last kick of the game, Rodriguez scampered down the left wing and crossed low for Seferovic to slam high into the net from close range. Only seconds earlier, Valon Behrami had made a superb tackle in his own area, before charging forward to set up the winning move.
Behrami was mobbed by as many teammates as Seferovic as Ecuador hung their heads in disappointment.