Serbia 2 – 3 Switzerland
(Group G, Lusail Iconic Stadium, 02/12/2022)
Serbia’s first game resulted in defeat to Brazil. However, their performance was good enough to suggest that they would do well against lesser teams. Subsequently, the Serbs squandered a lead in the 3-3 draw with Cameroon. In their opener the Swiss defeated a Cameroon team who will have been disappointed not to take anything from an even, entertaining game. Switzerland then narrowly lost to Brazil. They were well-organised and resolute, to remaining in the game for more than an hour. Brazil need only a point to be certain of winning Group G. If the Swiss win they will also go through. To reach the last sixteen, Cameroon and Serbia both need win but must also rely on the result of the other game going their way. If successful, Cameroon will reach the knock-out stages for the first time since 1990.
Denis Zakaria will start on the bench.
1 minute. Within 30 seconds of the kick-off, Switzerland caught Serbia cold. A long ball out of defence down the right found Sow. Running on, he crossed towards the penalty spot. The cross was blocked by Pavlovic sending it to the edge of the D where Xhaka hit a left foot drive towards goal. Xhaka’s shot struck Milenkovic, the ball rebounding to Shaqiri who lifted it over Pavlovic towards the 6-yard box. Embolo got to the ball before the advancing Milinkovic-Savic, striking the ball against the goalkeeper’s chest. After one bounce the ball reached the edge of the penalty area where Xhaka volleyed it goalward. The ball was beaten out by Milinkovic-Savic bouncing up to allow Zivkovic to hook the ball clear.
10 minutes. Zivkovic on the right about 10 yards into the Swiss half, played a forward, diagonal pass inside to Tadic. Tadic ran to the right-hand corner of the box. Before Rodriguez and Xhaka could get to him, he checked back sending a beautiful reverse diagonal pass back into Zivkovic’s path. Zivkovic’s shot smacked against the post. The ball then hit Mitrovic and dropped into the goalkeeper’s arms with Vlahovic, at full stretch, unable to turn the ball into the net.
18 minutes. Against the general run of play, Switzerland took the lead. Just inside his own half, Rodriguez touched the ball ouside to Vargas by the left touchline 6 yards into the Serbian half. With Rodrigez continuing his run outpacing Zivkovic, Vargas put the ball through Milenkovic’s legs back into Rodriguez’s path. The full back’s strong run into space took him deep into the penalty area a little beyond the line of four Serbian defenders. Rodriguez cut the ball back along the 6-yard box. Pavlovic intercepted but only diverted the ball to Sow near the penalty spot. His first two touches took him beyond Kostic before feeding the ball on to Shaqiri to his right. Shaqiri’s powerful, first-time, low, left foot shot went through Pavlovic’s legs, taking a small deflection, beating Milinkovic-Savic at his near post. In terms of the chances created the Swiss deserved to go in front. As it now stands, Switzerland will come second in the group, even if Cameroon beat Brazil, and Serbia would end up bottom.
26 minutes. The Serbs equalize. The Swiss appealed for a foul after a challenge on their right, 5 yards into the Serbian half. The foul was not given, and the ball was touched on to Tadic. He ran down the (Serbian) left towards the corner of the penalty area. Tadic crossed into the box. As Tadic was making progress down the left, Mitrovic was running down the centre with Akanji covering his run. As he approached the edge of the box, Mitrovic changed direction and made a diagonal run to the near post losing the defender. Running past the penalty spot, Mitrovic met the cross perfectly, heading powerfully past Kobel into the right side of the net. A great run and a beautiful, clinical finish. Excellent play.
30 minutes. Crossing the halfway line to the left of centre, Rodriguez hit a long diagonal ball towards Shaqiri out to the right. The ball went over the Serbian defence. Shaqiri took the ball just outdide the penalty area, a great touch allowing him to get the ball out of his feet. He shot with his left with Pavlovic, who had recovered ground well, sliding in desperate to get to the ball. The ball went narrowly wide. Close but perhaps the defender had done just enough to put Shaqiri off. A fantastic ball from Rodriguez. Shaqiri was possibly offside, but it was a very tight call and the decision wasn’t given.
34 minutes. Shaqiri’s inside pass, intended for Freuler, was wayward. The ball reached Milinkovic-Savic. Running on he slipped the ball slightly to his left between Schaer and Freuler. Running down the centre Vlahovic had anticipated the pass. He changed direction, as Mitrovic had done, turning in as he entered the box he then ran right-to-left across it. Freuler slid in trying to intercept the pass and find Widmer. Freuler’s touch didn’t find Widmer. Vlahovic got to the ball first and hit a low, left foot shot on the turn. The ball nestled in the far corner of the net. A very astute pass and another great finish. Now Serbia would finish second on the number of goals scored.
Serbia appeared to change their formation from a back three to a back five with the wing backs, and also Vlahovic, dropping in. Are they thinking they can protect the lead for the rest of the game?
43 minutes. Shaqiri picked the ball up in the centre circle inside his own half. He drove down the right channel and, as three Serbian defenders closed in on him, slipped it through to Sow. Sow controlled the ball and immediately passed out right to Freuler. He hit a dangerous, first-time ball across the box. As the ball came across the box, Embolo sprinted clear of Zivkovic, who had been on the wrong side of him anyway, to side-foot home from close range. Another great goal following swift, direct and incisive play.
It was an entertaining half. After Switzerland’s quick start, the Serbs, as time went on, started to control an increasing amount of possession; their good approach play only lacking the right final ball. The Swiss seemed to be relying more on counterattacks. Tadic had been very influential for Serbia – the tactic of playing both Mitrovic and Vlahovic up front had occupied the Swiss defenders, allowing him more room to play.
47 minutes. From wide out left just inside his own half, Rodriguez hit a long ball towards Embolo. The ball went over him Veljkovic. Pavlovic should have got to the ball. He stumbled as he turned allowing Embolo to reach the ball in front of both him and Kostic. Just inside the right corner of the area, Embolo touched it back to Shaqiri. Running inside, he deftly chipped the ball forward. From just left of the D, Vargas ran into and across the box to meet the ball. His superb first-time flick off the outside of his right foot found Freuler. Freuler, coming in from the edge of the box, he lost Veljkovic, ran into the space, met the ball (which sat up perfectly for him) and hit it home first-time. A brilliant goal. Beautiful play. The group situation reverted to what it had been after Shaqiri’s opener.
54 minutes. Veljkovic and Vlahovic were replaced by Gudelj and Jovic.
56 minutes. A lofted ball down the right-hand side cleared Milinkovic-Savic to find Freuler. His run inside resulted in a free kick as Pavlovic and Lukic converged on him. Freuler rolled the free kick forward into the box where Akanji ran onto it. Turning to cross, the ball was initially blocked by Zivkovic. The ball fell back to Akanji who lifted towards the far side of the box where it was met by Schaer, in space and totally unmarked. He side-footed the ball first-time towards goal. The ball cannoned off Milenkovic finding Embolo only four yards out. Embolo tried to flick the ball home with the outside of his right foot but succeeded only in lifting the ball over the bar. Embolo was in an offside position as Schaer played the ball, so the goal might not have stood anyway.
60 minutes. Starting with Milinkovic-Savic on the right, the Serbs worked the ball inside to Pavlovic. He moved the ball forward outside to Kostic on the left wing. Kostic fired a deep cross beyond the far post where Jovic was free. A great piece of control allowed Jovic to cross the ball back before Rodriguez could get to him. The cross went between Mitrovic and Pavlovic finding Tadic in a little space a few yards beyond Shaqiri. Tadic chested the ball down and, leaning back, shot over just as Shaqiri lunged in stretching for the ball. Serbia’s best chance in a while.
64 minutes. The Serbians claimed a penalty after Mitrovic appeared to have been fouled. Pavlovic found Mitrovic who played the ball inside to Tadic who lifted it into the box seeking to find Mitrovic. As he went for the ball with Schaer, there was contact. Schaer, had tried to pull Mitrovic’s shirt, but had only touched the Serb’s shoulder but there wasn’t enough in it to bring the Serb down. Mitrovic didn’t go down immediately, and his fall was a bit theatrical. Not enough for a penalty. The referee had no doubt and waved away the penalty shouts. The Serbians were incensed. The substitutes and coaching staff all left the dugout, some in the technical area, some on the pitch. With tension mounting, Rajkovic (the reserve goalkeeper) was shown a yellow card.
67 minutes. Milenkovic-Savic (Sergej) was sustitued by Maksimovic.
68 minutes. Shaqiri, Sow and Vargas went off. Zakaria, Fernandes and Fassnacht came on.
77 minutes. Tadic and Zivkovic are substituted. Djuricic and Radonjic enter the fray.
78 minutes. Xhaka, fouled by Lukic just past the centre circle, knocked the free kick to Widmer wide out on the right. Widmer lofted the ball to the edge of the box where Embolo was fouled by Gudelj who was booked for the offence. Akanji, Schaer and Xhaka all stood over the ball. Before the kick c be taken, Mitrovic’s dissent got him a yellow card. Akanji touched the ball to Xhaka who tapped it back to him. Akanji’s ambitious efffort hit the side netting. It was not the first time an inventive free kick had involved the defender.
88 minutes. From a central position midway inside the Serbian half, Fernandes passed diagonally out to the left to find Fassnacht with tons of room. Milinkovic-Savic was quick off his line and blocked before Fassnacht could shoot. Good goalkeeping, though Fassnacht might have been marginally off-side.
A minimum of seven additional minutes are to be played.
91 minutes. Coming well out of his area Milinkovic-Savic hit a long ball to the edge of the Swiss penalty area. The ball was headed clear. The Serbians retrieved the ball eventually crossed it back into the box. Rising above his marker Jovic headed over.
90+2 minutes. Cameroon score in the other Group G game. Even if they hold on to win, the overall outcome of the group will not change unless the Serbians equalize.
90+3 minutes. With the Serb trying to see the ball out for a goal kick, Milenkovic and Xhaka clashed. A fracas, involving several players from both sides, ensued. Zakaria was seen to put his head into the face of Pavlovic and was lucky to escape a booking. The melee continued as the players moved back up the pitch
90+9 minutes. Trying to intercept a loose ball, Djuricic was fouled by Fernandes. Kostic took the free kick. It was a good delivery. The ball hit the back of Jovic’s head. ear the edge of the box, Radonjic hit the ball first-time on the half-volley. The left foot drive went wide of Kobel’s left hand post.
90+10 minutes. The final whistle blows, the game is over. The Serbians are out.
Overall it had been an entertaining game but, as a spectacle, the second half was disappointing in comparison with the first. Though replaced by another striker, the Serbs didn’t play as well following the early withdrawal of Vlahovic. The Serbians became more frustrated and argumentative as time went on. That played into the hands of the Swiss who were able to defend their lead more easily as a result. Zakaria came on the reinforce the midfield screen for the Swiss defence. His performance was effective but was without any standout moments.
Posted by the CSG’s World Cup Willie