Switzerland kicks off from right to left on my TV screen. A modest 32", since you ask.
Spain vs. Switzerland instant analysis
Switzerland kicks off from right to left on my TV screen. A modest 32", since you ask.
Spain holds onto the ball for the first couple of minutes, as expected.
Ramos, who has beautiful hair, concedes a free-kick. Switzerland hold onto the ball for two touches - the keeper's foot, Derdiyok's head. “What do you think of Sergio [Busquets] over Cesc [Fabregas]?” asks Danny Romanello. “Not a better player right?” Busquets is on to sit behind Xavi and Alonso, which would be a bit of a waste of Fabregas’s forward talents. I’d expect him to come on in a slightly more advanced position.
Don't forget Fabregas has only recently come back from a leg-break, too. Possession so far is 78% in favour of Spain, but the back four hasn't yet been breached
"The only way I can see Switzerland beating Spain is if they use my user-created player on Fifa for the Xbox360," says Chris Espiritu. 'I was so sick in that game. Switzerland does have a corner...
Spain breaks but Villa's touch lets him down as he attempts to outfox Lichtsteiner, and Benaglio collects. I think we all deserve at least one goal within the first 20 minutes.
Senderos ought to have conceded a penalty there, catching Silva's heels in the box.
I'm not sure the possession-o-meter can be right - when has Switzerland managed 22%? Spain is so incredibly patient, the chances of it losing the ball are incredibly slim. Silva tries a shot, but it's straight at Benaglio.
Ramos is getting down the right hand side with such willingness, but having taken Ziegler out of the game by dragging the ball back onto his left, he drags his shot well wide.
"Is anything less than the World Cup trophy a failure for this Spain team?" wonders Altruistik. It wouldn't be the first great team to miss out, and the Spaniards are probably more realistic about it all than the rest of us, drooling into our laps hoping for 18-0 tonkings.
Iniesta has a go from 20 yards out, which tells you how well Switzerland is defending so far. Is it wrong to admit being a bit bored?
"I expected Spain domination but there's no end product so far..." says John Kim. "Getting bored." Senderos has just upended Xavi, which presents a set piece opportunity...
... and Pique nearly scores with the same skill he showed in the Champions League! Dribbled it round Grichting in the box, but the keeper's straight out to smother it.
Ziegler punts a free-kick towards goal from some distance, but Casillas is, inevitably, equal to it. Switzerland does at least have its first shot on the board, though.
Yellow Card - Grichting
"Spain looks silky smooth as usual," says Dave Reese, who might well sport a goatee. Does anyone who says "silky smooth" not tend their chin in such a manner? "Eventually Spain will break through". Ooh! Great run by Iniesta, Grichting just about halts him, but illegally - free-kick on the edge of the area and a yellow for the Swiss defender.
Villa whips it towards goal and straight into the wall. Switzerland are playing entirely on their own 18 yard line.
It all gets a bit scrappy in the box as Pique attempts to dribble the ball through 20 Swiss legs. "I feel it could be a draw but that seems silly to say," says Tammy. "But employ the strategy that USMNT employed and it can happen." Sssh! Aren't we supposed to be pretending that the US was brilliant against England?!
Out: Senderos , In: Steve von Bergen
Senderos hasn't been right since colliding with a teammate earlier, and is having to be replaced by Steve von Bergen. He looks utterly distraught.
"I'm more excited about the prospect of sticking the kettle on at half time at the moment", says load_of_balls. Ooh yeah. A nice mug of Assam. Switzerland has had a good 30 seconds on the ball, so it's Spain's turn again now.
What a great disservice I did Switzerland there. It's ramped possession up to 38% now.
Spain has been restricted to half chances and nearly moments for almost the entire first half.
Another Gah! moment: Villa races into the box, cuts back and then inexplicably dinks it up in the air across goal to nobody.
That's the first half done with, and we've not seen much to sate our appetite for goals. Still, at least I'm getting lots of interesting emails. Apparently, my email address has won $500,000 dollars and a lifetime supply of fizzy drinks!
Things to think about at half-time:
Can Spain change anything around in case the Swiss don’t falter? Is Torres fit enough to play 45 minutes?
Should we give boring defensive teams credit for making the most of the assets they do have, or should we pelt them with rotten fruit if they don’t attack at least every eight minutes?
Can Germany and/or Chile really be the best teams in South Africa?
Get to the toilet before the second-half kicks off. What kind of imbecile would leave it late enough to miss kick-off? Oh.
No changes at half-time, and Spain kicks off.
"I really do enjoy watching the World Cup," David Ward assures me."But the lack of goals IS something that is tough to deal with. Especially with football and basketball being such high scoring affairs, it makes watching soccer difficult sometimes. Does everyone else in the world enjoy matches even when there are no goals scored? I'm dying to know." In the course of a season, I can take a fair few 0-0s. But the fact that ultra defensive teams have suffocated better teams rather than playing them, in the world's showcase tournament, has been irritating.
If Arsenal is supposed to be a weaker version of Barcelona, Spain shouldn't look this much like Arsenal - too many touches when Switzerland is closing down so quickly and in numbers.
Goal - Gelson Fernandes
GOAL! Switzerland has taken the lead through Gelson Fernandes!
Route one stuff, straight from the goal-kick, Derdiyok pokes the ball to Fernandes as Casillas gets out to him, and the midfielder bundles the ball into the back of the net. Pique is bloodied and looking mightily peeved.
Well. There we are then.
"Is it just wishful thinking or do these low-scoring and tie game results mean that the third match in each group is going to be extremely exciting?" wonders Justin Nunez. "Seems like the final day will be do or die time for almost three teams in each group. That would definitely turn this World Cup around, right?" Absolutely, but I'd rather watch three week's of good games rather than four days. Spain seems to have upped the tempo marginally, but to little effect so far.
Jimmy Perez describes the Swiss goal with more poetry than I managed in my dumbfounded state: "That was ugly and beautiful at the same time".
Ramos sends a header spinning onto the top of the net. Looks like Torres will be coming on soon...
Out: Silva , In: Torres
Out: Busquets , In: Navas
Great save from Benaglio to deny Villa. Torres and Navas on for Silva and Busquets; this is promising.
"I understand people's frustration with the defensive teams smothering the attackers, but isn't that just part of the game?" asks Seth Feldman. "I've captained teams to the playoffs by stingy defense and a solid counterattack. 90% of those teams have been 4-4-2 and counterattackers like the U.S." I'm sure the medals look nice, Seth, but did you notice your family brought books to read in the stands?
Spain is still holding onto the ball most of the time, and there's a bit more fizz to the front since Torres and Navas came on - Torres's willingness to stick his head on the ball makes a huge difference.
Silva feeds Torres from the left but the ball gets stuck under the Liverpool striker's feet and he has to stop and spin on it to get the shot away; it's a little high and a little wide. 73rd minute, that's my completely baseless prediction.
OOF! Alonso's just rattled the bar within an inch of its life with a long range right-footer
Sixty seconds to be wrong or a genius.
Gah! In fairness, Pique almost walked the ball into the net, but more importantly, Spain nearly went 2-0 down. Derdiyok hit the post with the Spanish defense drawn completely out of shape.
"I'm feeling better about my draw prediction at least," har-hars Tammy.
Out: Iniesta , In: Pedro
Pedro comes on for Iniesta, who's looking sorry for himself after a rough brush with the Swiss defense.
Out: Derdiyok , In: Hakan Yakin
Spain is playing with four players camped on the edge of the Switzerland penalty area (a fact Navas ignored when he lashed a shot just wide from 25 yards, but still). Derdiyok comes off, and Hakan Yakin comes on.
"Cup of tea at halftime always solves everything," reckons load_of_balls. "Second half has been quality." It has since Spain was mugged of its patience. But what's this, Switzerland on the attack again? Barnetta's shot whirls just over the bar.
Credit to Switzerland for going at this game, at least occasionally, having taken the lead. Several Spanish players look like they've had enough.
I fear Spain is not going to find the magic moment here. Navas has been excellent since coming on, and perhaps should have started.
In order to link the two random thoughts I just presented you with, I should perhaps add that Torres has looked shy of sharp. Navas has created a couple of late chances but Torres hasn't got the delicate touch to make the most of them. Yet.
Out: Barnetta , In: Eggimann
Five minutes of stoppage time - if that's not designed for a wunderstrike from Spain, I don't know what is.
"I wonder if all these big teams are just folding under the pressure from home, and will perk up in the next set of games?" muses Ron Vanderveer. "Or, have they all underestimated their opponents?" Spain used to the textbook chokers, but Euro2008 shook off that reputation. I'm not sure they had enough back-up plans for if Switzerland really could hold on this long.
Spain has just been defeated by Switzerland for the first time ever.
Well this is a tough one to digest. And not just because I changed my prediction that Switzerland would reach the knockout stages at the last minute. Spain had the ball for 63% of the match, but something was missing; even after going a goal down, when scoring went from being a matter of time to being a matter of drawing or losing, the spark we've come to expect from such a capable team never really took. Jesus Navas got just under half an hour on the pitch and looked like he might make the difference, but in front of goal, Spain rarely found its composure.
Switzerland, by contrast, played most of the game without the ball, but stayed disciplined and grew in confidence after scoring. They're not great to watch, but you can't argue with one team scoring more than another, in the end.
Editor's note: Refresh for updates.
Here we go then, favorite Spain finally gets into the action, and the team is at full strength with the inclusion of Andres Iniesta. I was slightly concerned by Swiss coach Ottmar Hitzfeld's pregame suggestion that: "We'll need to be compact at the back, defend with nine men and hit them on the break when we can," given the massive lack of ambition it betrays. But at least in the absence of captain and main striker Alexander Frei, HItzfeld's gone for Eren Derdiyok, a tall, powerful striker who's been getting scouts hot under the collar since his international debut a couple of years ago.
Spain: Iker Casillas; Sergio Ramos, Carlos Puyol, Gerard Pique, Joan Capdevila; David Silva, Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets; David Villa.
Switzerland: Diego Benaglio; Stephane Grichting, Philippe Senderos, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Reto Ziegler; Tranquillo Barnetta, Benjamin Huggel, Gokhan Inler, Gelson Fernandes; Blaise Nfuko, Eren Derdiyok.
This is another match up between a side that can play football and a side that can stop other sides playing football, but in the mix this time, I'm delighted to tell you, is English referee Howard Webb. He is probably the best English referee, but that's a bit like being the thinnest person at Weight Watchers.
The Spanish anthems is sung (by the crowd, the Spanish players look quite grim-faced despite a jaunty trumpet), then the gentle Swiss number is well sung by the players. The fans seem to have been drowned out by the arrival of 4,934,574,952 bees.
According to Sergio Ramos, the Spanish squad is desperate to get out onto the pitch and kick-start its World Cup campaign. If Spain plays like it did against Poland recently -- winning 6-0 -- perhaps we'll finally get the World Cup action we've been waiting for. Fernando Torres will likely be on the bench, with five men behind David Villa, but Spain does the exciting, hit-em-hard and fast kind of 4-5-1. My hopes are high.
Other than Torres, Vicente del Bosque's side will be at full strength if Andres Iniesta is passed fit for the midfield, and not much worse off if Cesc Fabregas has to take his place. The Swiss, already a defensive unit whose best hope is containment, will be robbed of key striker Alexander Frei, who's yet to fully shake off an ankle injury. Ottmar Hitzfeld isn't prepared to risk defender Valon Behrami (thigh), either, which whiffs a little bit of hoping to pinch a point and saving his resources for more winnable games against Honduras and Chile.
Kickoff is at 10 a.m. ET, so open up this page while your boss isn't looking and join me for live analysis of the action and a bit of fun besides. Emails to firstname.lastname@example.org, if you please.
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