Three quick thoughts on Chile-Switzerland (World Cup Group H)
Three quick thoughts from Chile's 1-0 win over Switzerland in Group H on Monday:
1. Tight refereeing. Whistle-happy referee Khalil al Ghamdi issued four yellow cards in the first 24 minutes and 10 cards in total. Chile striker Humberto Suazo -- having barely broken a sweat in his first World Cup action -- was booked two minutes into the match for a late tackle. Then came a questionable booking on Switzerland striker Blaise Nkufo, who seemingly earned a yellow for a light shirt tug. Chile's Carlos Carmona was then booked in the 22nd minute for a late tackle on Switzerland's Valon Behrami, a huge call because the midfielder will miss Switzerland's final match against Honduras for his second yellow card. His teammate Waldo Ponce also earned a yellow card in the first 24 minutes.
Then the shocker: Behrami was called for a straight red card for flashing his elbow toward the face of Chile's Arturo Vidal. It was a questionable call at best, and Behrami became the first Swiss player ever sent off at a World Cup. But the Saudi ref was not done. Chile's Matias Fernandez was booked for a yellow in the 60th minute and will miss the next game against Spain -- another huge loss for the Chileans.
So, with Chile playing with a man advantage, South African-born winger Mark Gonzalez broke through in the 75th minute with a header on the back post off a lovely chip cross by forward Esteban Paredes. Swiss striker Eren Derdiyok will no doubt be kicking himself for missing an easy equalizing chance from eight yards out in the 90th minute. Will that miss cost Switzerland a chance to advance? It just might.
2. Nobody defends like the Swiss. Switzerland needed to hold Chile scoreless through the 67th minute to pass Italy for the most minutes not conceding a goal at the World Cup. The Italians (who else?) set the mark (550 minutes) between June 1986 and July 1990. "Tighter than a tax man's wallet," ESPN announcer Adrian Healey described the Swiss defense, and that it was until Gonzalez finally scored with the man advantage. The Swiss packed the midfield to neutralize Chile's attack early and coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, fast becoming one of the MVPs of the tournament, substituted striker Alexander Frei for midfielder Tranquillo Barnett. Ultimately, the Swiss could not hold off Chile forever. Jorge Valdivia, who came on for Suazo at halftime, had a huge impact for the Chileans. Paredes came on for Fernandez in the 65th minute and missed two chances in the final minutes that could have made it 3-0. The Chilean subs were magnificent.
3. Suazo returns ... with a thud. Suazo, Chile's most lethal finisher since Marcelo Salas and Ivan Zamorano in the 1990s, scored 10 of his team's 32 goals during qualification. But this was not his day. After missing the opening game against Honduras because of a thigh injury, Suazo was booked in the opening minutes and muddled a header in the 38th minute, sending it wildly over the net. He'll have to hope for better against Spain on Friday. His debut at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth was unforgettable and short.