“Moments for the history books,” writes the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) newspaper, referring to the final nail-biting minutes of the Switzerland-Argentina football match that ended 0:1 and had the nation on the edge of their seats on Tuesday.
A penalty shoot-out looked increasingly likely until Angel Di Maria scored in the 118th minute, with only two minutes to go. “What the final minutes of extra time in this second round match had to offer was better, more dramatic and nerve-wracking than any penalty cliffhanger,” the NZZ declared.
Swiss newspapers were brimming with superlatives to describe the tension of the match, the performance of the team and the bitter disappointment of failing to achieve the dream of reaching the quarterfinals for the first time since 1954.
“So much drama, so much pain,” the Neue Luzerner Zeitung laments. “Switzerland showed in the second round against Argentina their best performance of the tournament … until Angel di Maria tore through the heart of Swiss football.”
Blick’s pictured-dominated front page keeps it simple: “We are proud of you! You battled, you suffered, you allowed us to dream.”
“Heroic, cruel, despairing,” Le Matin newspaper writes. “Switzerland bows to Argentina in the 118th minutes of a heroic match. They leave Brazil head held high and heart big.”
Switzerland had previously made it to the last-16 knockout stage in 1994 and 2006. Today’s team is not the best ever, the NZZ concludes, but it is the most exciting so far.
“The exciting thing about the 2014 team is that you never know what you’re going to get. It is a lucky dip, a team that can lose 2:5 [against France] and still almost make it to the quarterfinals: it is a phoenix that rises from the ashes.”
The coverage also includes reflection on the end of the Hitzfeld era. National coach for the past six years, Ottmar Hitzfeld comes in for some cutting criticism along with praise, on the occasion of his final match with Switzerland.
“Ottmar Hitzfeld is left without an outstanding success that many expected based on the strength of his reputation. Switzerland only managed to achieve the minimum under him. Often they did not play entertaining football,” the Tages-Anzeiger comments, under the headline “A nasty ending”.
Of the 35 competitive games under Hitzfeld, Switzerland lost only seven and won 19. But, the Tages-Anzeiger points out, “on closer inspection, that sounds better than it actually is”.
Hours after his straight-set victory in Wimbledon, the darling of Swiss sport Roger Federer tweeted a picture of himself watching the match, hidden under a children’s blanket.
Even the Vatican communications office joined in the excitement, getting a laugh from the imagined rivalry between the Swiss Guard and the Argentinian Pope Francis.
To cheer its readers up, Blick newspaper reminded everyone that Switzerland is still a world champion in wealth, innovation, competitiveness, high-altitude trains and chocolate consumption.
“OK Argentina is a bit better at football, but we leave the rest of the world behind in other areas,” says Blick.
The morning after the bitter defeat in São Paulo, the Swiss might be tempted to swap it all for a bit more football glory.
The performance of the Swiss football team also prompted a reaction from the world of politics.
"The government is very proud of team spirit and the fair play shown by the national squad," said cabinet spokesman André Simonazzi.
He added the seven ministers discussed football intensively during the coffee break of Wednesday's regular cabinet meeting.