Well so much for Madame Shiva. The Bern-based “psychic” guinea pig who correctly predicted a victory for Switzerland in their first match at the football World Cup in Brazil got it spectacularly wrong for Friday’s match against France. Predicting another win, Madame Shiva had to watch as the Swiss were demolished 5-2.
“Ridiculed and embarrassed”, was the headline in the Tages-Anzeiger, which said the Swiss had been given “a football lesson in French”.
“[The Swiss team] wanted to show how good they were; they talked themselves up and looked at their opponents as equals. In the end, they were just loudmouths, ridiculed and made complete fools of. In the wonderful stadium in Salvador, they saw what they lack at the peak of international football.”
Indeed, what a difference a day makes: 24 hours earlier Swiss papers had been full of headlines such as “Today we’ll beat the Frenchies!” (Blick).
As it turned out, they found themselves 5-0 down after 73 minutes. Only a couple of late goals saved the scathing reaction being even worse.
Not that Blick was mincing its words, calling the defeat by a team that Switzerland haven’t beaten since 1992 a “debacle”.
“Eleven little Swiss have been flattened by a French TGV – is this the final destination?” it wondered.
What a performance by France! What a performance by Switzerland as well, but not necessarily in the same way.
Honduras ‘character test’
Most commentators reckoned it probably wasn’t: to qualify for the next round, Switzerland (unbelievably sixth in the FIFA rankings) need to beat Honduras (ranked 33rd) on Wednesday.
“Everything is in our hands,” coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said. “We still have a good chance of qualifying.”
Nevertheless, Wednesday’s match will be a “real test of character”, reckoned the Tages-Anzeiger.
“Failed,” was the succinct headline in the normally prolix Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ). “Too little tempo, positional errors, no confidence on the ball and failed passes. The Swiss national team struggled with its usual shortcomings, but in France it was up against a side that knew how to exploit them.”
The question now, it added, was how the Swiss would react to the “failed exam”. It wasn’t the first to point out that the Swiss faced exactly the same situation at the World Cup in South Africa four years ago: needing to beat Honduras to get through to the knock-out round.
In 2010, all they could manage was a goalless draw. “A lot of work awaits them in the team camp,” said the NZZ.
The Twitter wits were soon out in force:
“Switzerland are losing 5-0 to France, but their flag is a huge plus,” quipped @garrynewman
“Switzerland. Stick to chocolate & watches, lads,” was the advice from @fkhanage
“The Swiss defence was as full of holes as... something that is full of holes. Can't think of a suitable metaphor,” wrote @WildeThings, one of many who spotted the obvious connection between Switzerland's defence and its cheese.
Sticking with the clichés, @cenkuygur pointed out that “the Swiss are neutral to goal scoring”.
“Swiss – good at typography, bad at soccer,” added @travisladue
Several tweeters riffed on the Swiss “being done”: “Put a fork in the Swiss. And a corkscrew. And a screwdriver. And a knife. And a smaller knife. And tweezers. And the toothpick no one uses,“ @ArkansasFred
Want a bit of sexism? “Call your girlfriend 'Switzerland' because she kicks off every 5 minutes,” @SportHumour
Is this rude? Apologies if it is: “France are absolutely baguetteing Switzerland,” commented @tomwarren
Finally, a tweet from one of the many fake Roger Federer accounts: “Switzerland doing everything they can in the World Cup so they can come to watch me next week at Wimbledon."
‘Rout of Salvador’
Le Matin in Lausanne devoted its first six pages to the defeat, which it said would go down in the history books as the “rout of Salvador”.
“The shipwreck,” was its headline, above a picture of shell-shocked Swiss players. Inside, above pictures of shell-shocked fans, it said “the best Swiss team of all time” – as it had been described by many now-sheepish experts – had received its “greatest hammering of all time”.
“Thanks to a qualifying group of cardboard opponents [France, Ecuador and Honduras], Switzerland have lived the past three years in a state of advanced ignorance. The return to reality was all the more violent,” it wrote.
“The five [French] goals scored during a veritable scalp dance rang out like a terrible sentence.”
In Italian-speaking Switzerland, the frontpage headline in Il Corriere del Ticino was “Switzerland, World Cup disgrace”.
“The boys in red and white were punished by France,” it said. “Now the last-16 is further away.”
For La Liberté in Fribourg, the result was a “nightmare” for Switzerland. It then listed the many weaknesses and individual mistakes committed by the team.
Nevertheless, it noted that – unlike Spain and England, also licking their wounds – Switzerland were still very much in the tournament.
“The Swiss now need to pick themselves up after yesterday’s fiasco. Honduras? Nothing insurmountable, as long as Hitzfeld’s protégés show more appetite than in their first two matches,” it said.
“To be invited to the Brazilian feast without tucking into the food would be a sin. The Swiss have 90 minutes to atone.”