Update, 11:53 a.m.: Spain 0-1 Switzerland. Well, what to say about this one? The Swiss played a fantastic defensive game, and that combined with a bit of luck, has lead to the biggest upset of the tournament so far. Spain dominated the game from start to finish, but couldn’t capitalize on all the chances–shots went wide, high, off the post; basically everywhere that wasn’t in the net. The Swiss play was reminiscent of Greece’s 2004 European Championship campaign–11 men in front of the ball, with one devastating counter attack. Maybe not the prettiest type of soccer to play, but it was certainly effective against a Spain team that just genuinely lacked any bite: Villa and Torres both lucked rusty, Iniesta was HAMMERED all game, and Xavi was a non-factor. Fantastic result for the Swiss, who will look to carry this momentum into their next matches; embarrassing for the Spaniards, who came into this World Cup as favorites, only to choke once again. The Spanish showed once again that it doesn’t matter how much possession you have–the only thing that matters is the big number on the scoreboard.
Man of the Match: Swiss defense. I can’t think of just one player to give this to because this wasn’t a single-player game. The entire Swiss team should be classified as “Swiss defense,” and thus, they all deserve man of the match awards.
9:35 a.m.: Bienvenidos al LiveBlog; today I have the great privilege of analyzing the first match that my team, 2008 Euro Cup champions and World Cup “favorites” (can you really call a team that has never won “favorites”?) Spain has in this 2010 edition of the greatest sporting event in the world. There are lots of intriguing storylines surrounding this Spanish side, the most important of which are injuries, and the recovery from injuries. Both Fernando Torres, our golden-boy striker who plays his club ball at Liverpool, and our young creative gun Andrés Iniesta have managed to recuperate in time to play today–even though Torres won’t; at the same time, we should watch closely to see if either of them are bothered–even subconsciously–by their injuries.
So far this World Cup none of the traditional super-powers (with the notable exception of the other 2008 Euro Cup finalist Germany) have come out very strong in the first match, but most have done enough to win–Brazil over North Korea, Holland over Denmark, and Argentina over Nigeria, for example. Spain has notoriously been fantastic in group play but choked when it came to actually playing in the knock-out stages of the tournament. We’ll see if this stereotype holds true this year after Spain’s magical, curse-breaking Euro Cup win in 2008.
9:47 a.m.: Pre-Game Chatter: Alexi Lalas is “worried about the fact that everything is put on them winning the European Championships.” He doesn’t buy that Spain has overcome some sort of boundary, some sort of mental hump.
Spain’s play will move through the midfield, holding, flowing, “beautiful”–the normal adjective.
9:49 a.m.: STARTING LINEUPS
Spain: Casillas; Ramos, Piqué, Puyol, Capdevila; Busquets, Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Iniesta, Silva; Villa.
Switzerland: Benaglio; Lichtsteiner, Senderos, Grichting, Ziegler; Barnetta, Inler, Huggel, Fernandes; Derdiyok, Nkufo.
Switzerland should be a “tough nut to crack” according to the ESPN commentators.
9:54 a.m.: Players make their way onto the pitch, national anthems, coin toss, SOCCER! Turn on your bias filters people, vamos ESPAÑA!
Good shot of Vicente del Bosque, my great childhood coach (he coached Real Madrid during the glory years of the mid-late 1990’s and early 200’s).
9:59 a.m.: HERE WE GO!
2′) Spain looks unhurried but well composed in attack; Switzerland looks well organized on defense. Should be a tactical game, a chess-match of sorts.
3′) Grichting takes out Busquets, leading to a dangerous-looking free kick for Spain; comes to nothing as Xavi’s pass is rocketed out of the box. Spain grabs possession again.
5′) Lots of possession for Spain so far, but without any real threat–but don’t get comfortable, because this is classic Spanish play. Switzerland looks a bit nervous, as they commit another foul.
6′) The commentators remind us that the Swiss are playing very narrow, which could give Spain room to maneuver on the flanks, especially with runs from Capdevila and Sergio Ramos.
7′) Spain’s had the ball for the last three minutes straight.
8′) Finally cleared by Switzerland, but Spain recovers; promptly give it back, and watch out for the Swiss on the counter.
9′) Ends in a corner for Switzerland–watch out for them in the air, Spain are not a great aerial defensive team. Switzerland got caught on the break off the corner, as David Villa got a beautiful ball from Silva but couldn’t capitalize.
11′) Good move from Spain down the left flank, though this time the possession comes to nothing; the Spanish look good but not super threatening–they’re pushing up slowly but steadily, gaining ground. A chess match.
12′) A bit of a break from Switzerland, well smothered by Puyol.
14′) Tricky play by SILVA, and a possible PENALTY! as he gets taken down inside the box. There’s something there, but I guess I can understand not calling it.
16′) Good point on ESPN: most of the Spanish players are on either Real Madrid or Barcelona, and most Spanish club teams sit back and defend against these two teams–just like Switzerland. Silva’s shot blocked by the keeper.
17′) Great ball from Piqué to Sergio Ramos, making a good run down the right touch line–he should have crossed it, though, as his shot misses the goal by several feet.
19′) More possession from Spain, but Switzerland look very tight, well organized–Spain is a very patient team, though, and can break down teams like this.
21′) Long shot from Iniesta–easy for the GK.
22′) Very pretty combination there for Spain, and Silva’s nifty back pass is intercepted–unlucky there, as Xavi is fouled in midfield.
23′) UUUUYYYY!!!! BEAUTIFUL PASS FROM INIESTA! Iniesta’s brilliant pass leaves Piqué in front of goal alone, but Benaglio is equal to his shot. Misplay from the catalan defender.
24′) BAD CALL! There was no foul on Xavi, clearing the ball; but now the Swiss have a very dangerous opportunity.
25′) CASILLAS! Made a tough save look easy.
27′) Fernandes and Ziegler sandwich Iniesta, who goes down grabbing his face–probably got an accidental elbow or something.
28′) Iniesta gets back at Switzerland with a trip. Come on, not necessary. Phillipe Senderos is still off the pitch.
29′) INIESTA! Taken down on the front of the penalty area by Grichting–Yellow Card to Grichting for pulling him down. Dangerous free kick.
31′) Villa’s shot–corner, comes to nothing, as Spain regains possession.
31′) Iniesta fouled again. Yikes.
33′) Lots of Spanish possession is still leading to nothing, though it’s much closer to the area than the Swiss would want.
34′) VILLA! Fantastic play on the left side of the midfield from Spain, leads to a beautiful little chip-cross from Capdevila that finds Villa’s head. His header left a lot to be desired, though.
35′) Senderos off, here comes van Bergen.
36′) PUYOL! Fantastic defense from the Barcelona captain, as the Swiss finally muster something offensively. And Spain comes roaring back on the counter.
37′) Corner to Switzerland, their second. Watch out.
38′) Mediocre defense all around from Spain on that last set, from a botched clearance, to Iker’s mediocre throw.
39′) Spain is winning the possession game 68%-32%, as Iniesta makes a run into the corner. More possession from the Spanish in midfield.
40′) Nifty. Spain makes a very pretty offensive set, lots of passes, ending in a botched volley by Xabi Alonso. Silva and Alonso have both been very active so far.
42′) While Spain has looked dominant, they haven’t been very threatening–maybe because they haven’t been as sharp as we’re used to.
43′) VILLA….INIESTA! UYYYYY. Great play from the Spanish midfield gives Villa a pass with his back to goal; he passes to Silva, who leaves it to Iniesta, whose shot sails high. Agh.
44′) AHHHHHH! VILLA! Yikes. Villa has a one-on-one, but opts for the pass–he seriously messes this one up. Shoot the ball, son!
45’+1) HALFTIME. Well, not much to say. A bit dispiriting for Spain against an incredibly defensive Swiss side, who have come out extremely well organized in the face of Spanish domination. La Roja has really been lacking in front of goal today, and have looked a bit off in their passes. Hopefully the trip through the dressing rooms will change that and make this more of a real Spanish performance.
46′) Spain’s come out looking for it so far–great play by Silva leads to a long shot from Xabi Alonso, who can’t keep the ball down. A por ellos!
47′) The English referee calls a handball on Piqué, as the Swiss are pressuring now. The pitch does not look very good right now.
48′) Corner to Spain–short. The Spanish move the ball around well until Silva “runs into a brick wall.”
49′) Xabi Alonso! Good shot from distance deflected, leads to another corner.
50′) GODDAMNIT. Fantastic play from Spain, but Silva’s shot is shit and swings wide.
51′) GOOOOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLL!! GOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLL GOOOOOOAAAAAALLL GOOOOOOOAAALLLLL! SWITZERLAND! Unlucky there for Casillas, who came out hard; Piqué got smashed in the face, as the ball takes a tough deflection right into the feet of Gelson Fernandes. Now, more defense from the Swiss, whose style has been justified.
54′) Good cross in from Ramos. Ugh. Such bad defense from Spain on the goal.
55′) The Swiss have 10-11 men in front of the ball at all times. Lichsteiner goes down, trying to shut down the gameplay.
57′) Good shot from David Villa from outside the area, but the ball goes straight into the keeper’s hands. Spain is really pushing for the equalizer right now, but is really coming against the massive Swiss wall. Organized, tight defense from the Swiss.
59′) 11 people behind the ball for the Swiss.
60′) Ramos’ header from the corner goes over the top of the goal; Torres is about to come on.
60′) VILLA! AHHH MIERDA! Good keeping from Benoglio to stop Villa’s one-on-one.
61′) Fernando Torres on for Busquets; Jesús Navas on for David Silva. Good sub, attacking–Navas is super fast, a very exciting young player; and no-one really needs to be told how good Torres is.
62′) NANDO is TAKEN DOWN on the outside of the area. Terrible non-call from the English referee.
63′) INIESTA!!! AHHHH!!! OUTSIDE. Iniesta misses the equalizer by a foot.
65′) Corner to Spain after the Swiss cleared a good cross. Ends in nothing, as Iniesta’s pass sails over everyone’s head.
66′) Now the Swiss have a chance for a long throw–comes to nothing as Iker grabs it.
67′) Nando goes down again, probably a foul. Spain comes back on the counter–Villa, TORRES! AH! It STILL won’t go in for Spain.
69′) XABI ALONSO OFF THE POST!! GODDAMNIT!! It’s just one of those days for Spain.
71′) Great run by NAVAS! His shot goes right into Benaglio’s hands.
72′) The Spanish are just getting hammered out there, as Ziegler gets a Yellow Card for pulling down Navas.
74′) OFF THE POST FOR SWITZERLAND!! OH MY! DERDIYOK beats up on the Spanish defensive line. What an embarrassment for the Spanish back line.
75′) Iniesta is HAMMERED by Lichsteiner, and Iniesta is down. And he’s substituted off, as Pedro comes on.
77′) Now it’s NAVAS from distance, missed by about 6 inches–the story of the game for Spain today.
78′) Time-killing change for Switzerland, as Yakin comes in for Derdiyok.
80′) Ten minutes left for Spain to avoid an embarrassing defeat to the Swiss.
81′) All the Spanish attacking has lead to a few threatening counters from the Swiss. Spain not looking good at all right now. Blech.
85′) Yikes. Spain looks awful right now; the 11 Swiss players in front of the ball feel more like 1100.
87′) Nando. Failure. He looks really rusty–that touch was way too strong. The Swiss are defending with all their heart and soul right now, booting the ball as far up the pitch as possible.
90′) Corner to Spain. Did he just say 5 minutes of stoppage? Yeah, he did–5 minutes of stoppage.
90’+1) Yellow Card to Benaglio for time-wasting; time-wasting substitution for Omar Hitzsfield–Eggiman on for Barnetta.
90’+4) Yellow Card to Yakin for handball. Probably the last chance for Spain.
90’+5) Xavi’s shot flies high. Should be game.
90’+5) GAME. DISGUSTING, TERRIBLE FAILURE FOR SPAIN; JOY, FANTASTIC RESULT FOR SWITZERLAND.