Reigning European champions Portugal kicked off their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign with a trip to Switzerland, hoping to extend the positive run following a historic Euro 2016 success in France.
Fernando Santos’ men however suffered a shock 2-0 defeat at the start of the qualifiers at the hands of the talented Swiss side, who put in a strong and resilient display at St. Jacob-Park on Tuesday night.
Having lost only one World Cup qualifier at home since 2001, Switzerland have thus continued their formidable home record much to the pleasing of home supporters.
Switzerland head coach Vladimir Petkovic has not made many changes to the squad he led during the 2016 European Championship finals in France earlier in the summer.
Influential striker Josip Drmic missed Euro 2016 due to injury and was unavailable once again for the beginning of the World Cup qualifiers, alongside equally important member of the first team Xherdan Shaqiri who failed to recover from his injury problem in time.
The likes of Philippe Senderos, Pajtim Kasami, Gokhan Inler and Valentin Stocker have been overlooked for the occasion, while Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka started the game together with the hot prospect Breel Embolo, who managed to get his name on the score sheet against the Selecao.
Arsenal man ended the game prematurely though having been sent off for a reckless challenge in the 93rd minute of the match.
Fernando Santos had much bigger selection problems than his Swiss counterpart as he was unable to call upon Miguel Veloso, Ricardo Carvalho, Tiago Mendes, Renato Sanches and captain Cristiano Ronaldo, who is still suffering from a knee injury he sustained during the Euro 2016 final against France.
In addition, the exciting Barcelona starlet Andre Gomes was forced to withdraw from the squad just days prior to the game which was another blow to the European Champions.
Despite opening the game with a great opportunity to get in front within the first five minutes of the match through Bernardo Silva, Portugal failed to make their presence known later on during the first half of the match with Switzerland taking advantage to score two goals in the space of five minutes and earn a comfortable cushion that was ultimately enough for huge three points against the European champions.
Schalke forward Breel Embrolo was the one to open the scoring after 24 minutes when he got to the rebound in the goalmouthafter a free kick to plant a header home, much to delight of the home crowd.
On the half hour mark the Swiss doubled their lead through Admir Mehmedi who scored a stunning goal for his national team.
Mehmedi latched on to a precise through pass from Haris Seferovic before unleashing an unstoppable shot into the top right corner from the edge of area.
Portugal were left stunned, but still attempted to catch an early break and get back in the game as soon as possible. Raphael Guerreiro had a fine chance to pull one back for the visitors on two occasions in the space of a single minute, but Switzerland’s excellent work defensively paid off as their net remained still for the remainder of the first 45 minutes.
Fernando Santos had plenty to say during the half time team talk and his words seemed to have given result with Portugal getting out of the tunnel with more resolve and determination to get back in the game.
Alves Cedric, Nani and Bernando Silva had their respective efforts on the Switzerland goal early in the second half, but the hosts responded through Blerim Dzemaili, who took a shot from inside the box sending it by a whisker wide of the right post.
Portugal spent the majority of the second term attacking and trying to breach through solid defence from the Swiss, but lacked the cutting edge in front of goal. The absences of Cristiano Ronaldo and Renato Sanches were sorely missed on the occasion.
Visitors came closest to scoring eight minutes from time when Nani latched on a superb cross inside the box with a flying header which unfortunately hit the right post.
Switzerland endured through Portugal attacks and emerged deserved winners from the highlight match of the night.
- Evenly distributed possession – Swiss taking 47% of the ball to Portugal’s 53%
- Visitors dominance – 27 attempts on goal to Switzerland’s 8
- Portugal’s lack of cutting edge – 11 shots off target and another 12 blocked
- The Swiss recorded successive 2-0 wins over Portugal in less than three months
- Switzerland lost only one World Cup qualifier at home since 2001
SWITZERLAND: Sommer 6.5 – Lichtsteiner 7 (Widmer 6), Schar 7, Djourou 6.5, Rodriguez 6.5 – Xhaka 6, Behrami 7 – Embrolo 7.5, Dzemaili 7 (Fernandes 6), Mehmedi 8 – Seferovic 7 (Derdiyok 6)
Unused subs: Burki, Elvedi, Frei, Hitz, Klose, Moubandje, Steffen
PORTUGAL: Patricio 6 – Cedric 6.5, Pepe 6.5, Fonte 6.5, Guerreiro 6.5 – Moutinho 7 (Quaresma 6), Carvalho 6.5 (Mario 6), Silva 6.5 – Nani 7, Eder 6.5 (Silva A. 6), Silva 6.5
Unused subs: Alves B., Andre, Cancelo, Eduardo, Eliseu, Marafona, Neto, Pereira, Silva R.
REFEREE: Antonio Mateu Lahoz
Other results this evening
Albania 2-1 FYR Macedonia
Andorra 0-1 Latvia
Belarus 0-0 France
Bosnia & Herzegovina 5-0 Estonia
Bulgaria 4-3 Luxembourg
Cyprus 0-3 Belgium
Faroe Islands 0-0 Hungary
Gibraltar 1-4 Greece
Sweden 1-1 Netherlands