Switzerland have lost 1-0 to Montenegro in their second of eight qualification matches for the 2012 European Football Championship.
A goal from Mirko Vucinic in the 67th minute means Switzerland drop to the bottom of their five-team group and are looking increasingly unlikely to make it to Poland and Ukraine in 20 months.
Elsewhere in Group G, Bulgaria beat Wales 1-0. England had the night off.
The 12,700 sell-out crowd at Podgorica Stadium had little to cheer in the first hour of messy football, with the majority of the few goal attempts falling Switzerland’s way.
But in the 67th minute, Vucinic, who plays for Italian Serie A club Roma, picked up a well-timed pass from Mitar Novakovic just inside the penalty area and lifted it coolly over the approaching Swiss keeper.
Vucinic promptly whipped off his shorts, put them on his head, ran around in his underwear and was given a yellow card for his troubles.
Switzerland, who had been looking to put last month's 3-1 home defeat by England behind them, pushed forward in the last ten minutes but the hosts managed to protect the lead. Montenegro goalkeeper Mladen Bozovic stopped Eren Derdiyok's 25-metre free kick and Alexander Frei's weak shot from 15 metres out.
Montenegro, with a population of less than 700,000 and a nominal GDP per capita of $6,100 (SFr5,900) – a tenth of Switzerland in both cases – had won their third match in a row.
Improbably, Fifa’s newest member now top their qualification group and next play England at Wembley on Tuesday. The tiny Adriatic Sea state is playing its first European championship qualifiers after splitting from Serbia in 2006.
"The English are probably looking differently at us after the three victories in qualifying," Montenegro coach Cico Kranjcar said. "We won't go to Wembley for shopping, but to play and try to get at least a draw."
For his part, Hitzfeld admitted the situation didn’t look good yet maintained Switzerland could end up second in the group.
“We had enough chances to score,” he said, while acknowledging his side’s striking weakness. No Swiss striker has now scored in 13 games – since September 9 last year.
“The game was marked by mistakes – and Montenegro were the luckier side. Obviously we expected more from this game, but today we simply didn’t have the luck when shooting.”
Hitzfeld was without goalkeeper Diego Benaglio and defender Philippe Senderos, both out injured, and Stephan Lichtsteiner, who was serving a one-match ban for picking up two yellow cards in Switzerland’s previous match.
Benaglio, arguably Switzerland’s best player, who plays for Wolfsburg in the German Bundesliga, was ruled out with adductor problems and was replaced by Marco Wölfli from Young Boys Bern.
Switzerland’s next Euro 2012 qualifier is against Wales on Tuesday.
“We mustn’t now lose our nerves,” Hitzfeld said. “Against Wales we desperately need to start our comeback.”
Press not impressed
The Swiss media was not impressed by the performance. “A momentous failure,” wrote the Zurich-based Tages-Anzeiger. “You embarrassing dwarves,” screamed the tabloid Blick.
The French-speaking Le Temps said that the Euro 2012 appeared “far, very far away” for the Swiss team and that the result was “one of the most regrettable defeats for a Swiss team which still lacks talent and inspiration”.
The squad is heading into a “headwind”, wrote the Neue Zürcher Zeitung in its Saturday edition. It had enjoyed some chances, but didn’t score a goal - again.
“… and [it] stays on course going somewhere, but certainly not to the Euro 2012. And certainly not into the fans’ arms. Where is it going? Only the wind knows the answer. The headwind.”
The Tages-Anzeiger pointed to the team being under pressure, both morally and psychologically. “The art of the trainer will be needed to prop them up by Tuesday. It will be a Herculean task,” said the newspaper.
The nine group winners and the runner-up with the best record against the top five sides in their pool qualify directly for the final tournament. The eight remaining runners-up enter the play-offs.
Current Group G standing (matches played/wins/ draws/losses/goals for-against):
1. Montenegro 3 3 0 0 3 0 9
2. England 2 2 0 0 7 1 6
3. Bulgaria 3 1 0 2 1 5 3
4. Wales 2 0 0 2 0 2 0
5. Switzerland 2 0 0 2 1 4 0
Switzerland: Wölfli; Sutter, Von Bergen, Grichting, Ziegler; Shaqiri (67. Barnetta), Inler, Schwegler, Stocker (76. Yakin); Frei, Streller (67. Derdiyok).
Montenegro: Bozovic; Savic, Dzudovic, Basa, Jovanovic; Vukcevic (85. Beciraj), Zverotic, Novakovic, Boskovic (46. Kascelan); Djalovic, Vucinic.
(With input from Isobel Leybold-Johnson), swissinfo.ch