Swiss boost World Cup dreams with Togo win
Alexander Frei and Tranquillo Barnetta both found the net to catapult Switzerland to the top of their World Cup group with a 2-0 victory against Togo in Dortmund.
The result puts the Swiss in the driving seat to qualify for the final 16 in the tournament, needing just a draw against South Korea on Friday to make it through to the first knockout stage.
Switzerland came into the game bolstered by France’s lacklustre stalemate against South Korea on Sunday. Swiss coach Köbi Kuhn made one tactical switch from the goalless draw in Stuttgart against the French last week, bringing in striker Daniel Gygax for Marco Streller.
The contrast in styles between the two sides could not have been more marked in temperatures that were much cooler than Stuttgart.
Switzerland preferred the patient, probing approach while Togo quickly flung the ball forward to the towering Emmanuel Adebayor or his pacy partner Mohamed Kader.
Togo’s tactic nearly paid dividends early on as Kader slipped the Swiss defence only to drill his shot straight at goalkeeper Pascal Zuberbühler. Adebayor also found the Swiss defence in disarray in the tenth minute, but headed his chance wide.
Frei had one early header easily saved, but made no mistake with his second opportunity. Ludovic Magnin broke down the left flank in the 16th minute and Tranquillo Barnetta turned the defender’s cross into Frei’s path for a simple tap-in to give Switzerland the lead.
Togo responded to the setback with purpose and Zuberbühler had to be alert to save Kader’s shot at his near post. Philippe Senderos then made a complete mess of his attempt to clear a cross but was relieved to see Thomas Dossevi put his shot wide.
For the second match in a row the Swiss had the referee to thank for turning down a penalty claim from the opposition after Patrick Müller clipped Adebayor in the penalty area. Müller then came to his side’s rescue with a last-ditch interception to deny Kader as Togo hit a dominant patch.
Switzerland’s goal strangely seemed to unnerve the team and they were happy to end the first half still in the lead.
Kuhn replaced Gygax with crowd favourite Hakan Yakin at the restart in an effort to lift the tempo. The team responded by carving out a chance for Barnetta in the 51st minute that was turned over the bar.
Yakin fizzed a long-range effort over the bar and Frei had a shot blocked as Switzerland started to regain their grip on the match.
But Yakin missed a glorious chance to extend the lead in the 64th minute, directing his shot straight at Togo goalkeeper Kossi Agassa after being put through by Frei.
Streller and Mauro Lustrinelli were thrown into the fray as Swiss invention appeared to evaporate in the face of the sun that came out late in the match.
And the changes reaped dividends as Lustrinelli squared the ball to Barnetta, who sent a low drive crashing into the goal off the inside of the far post to seal a vital victory.
swissinfo, Matthew Allen in Dortmund
Switzerland’s next match against South Korea on Friday will be played at the same time that France take on Togo (9pm).
Switzerland only need to draw against the South Koreans to progress.
If Switzerland win, they will qualify in top place. If they draw, it is conceivable that they could finish on five points with France and South Korea, but the Swiss would advance with a superior goal difference to the South Koreans.
If Switzerland lose, they could still qualify if France fail to win against Togo.
Group G table on Monday June 19:
Switzerland – played twice, four points, two goals scored and none conceded;
South Korea – played twice, four points, three goals scored and two conceded;
France – played twice, two points, one goal scored, one conceded;
Togo – played twice, no points, one goal scored and four conceded.
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