BRASILIA, Brazil — Haris Seferovic netted a late winner at the Estadio Nacional on Sunday to lift Switzerland to a dramatic 2-1 victory over Ecuador.
The two nations were expected to challenge for the runner-up position (behind group-favorite France) in Group E, but after Enner Valencia and Admir Mehmedi exchanged goals, it appeared as though they would be forced to share the spoils.
But Seferovic popped up with a late goal to hand Switzerland a vital win and lift the European nation to an early lead in the group.
“We’ve done it, and that’s unbelievable,” Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said after the match. “We never stopped believing in ourselves. By the end we were having a few problems with the altitude 1,100 metres above sea level; the Ecuadorians had a lot more running left in them than us. I’m extremely happy with the three points and it means it’s a good start.”
Switzerland was slow out of the gate and Ecuador made Hitzfeld’s men pay by opening the scoring in the 22nd minute from a set-piece opportunity.
Walter Ayovi delivered a delicious cross to the top of the six-yard box where an unmarked Valencia was waiting to nod a shot past Diego Benaglio.
The Swiss emerged from the halftime interval and leveled the score within three minutes of the restart, also making the most of a dead-ball situation.
Ricardo Rodriguez pumped a dangerous corner kick into the box to draw goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez off his line, and Mehmedi took advantage by heading a shot into the back of the net.
The goal helped the Swiss settle into the match, but they were still rather sloppy in attack.
They thought they had taken the lead in the 70th minute when Rodriguez’s threaded pass fell to Josip Drmic, who then slotted a shot past Dominguez, but the assistant referee raised his flag to signal that the Swiss striker was offside and the goal was disallowed.
Play exploded with end-to-end action in the final minute of stoppage time, and the Swiss turned out to be the beneficiaries.
Valon Behrami quelled a late scoring opportunity for Ecuador by committing a game-saving tackle in his own penalty area.
The Napoli man got up and proceeded to run half of the pitch before finding Rodriguez on the left flank. Rodriguez then delivered an inch-perfect cross in front of goal for Seferovic to tuck home the winner from close range.
Argentina 2, Bosnia-Herzegovina 1
RIO DE JANEIRO — Lionel Messi scored a goal in the second half to help Argentina to a 2-1 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina at the Maracana on Sunday in Group F play.
Bosnia’s World Cup debut couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start as the team went behind inside of three minutes to an own goal from Sead Kolasinac.
Argentina was below par for much of the match and struggled to break down Bosnia’s defense, but Messi provided a moment of magic in the 65th to brighten up the proceedings as he combined with Gonzalo Higuain to notch his second career World Cup goal.
Vedad Ibisevic pulled a goal back for Bosnia six minutes from time, but Argentina was able to hold on for three points to move to the top of the group, while Nigeria and Iran will square off on Monday in the group’s other contest.
France 3, Honduras 0
PORTO ALEGRE — Karim Benzema played a starring role in France’s opening match of the World Cup, scoring twice to lead his team to a 3-0 defeat of Honduras at the Estadio Beira-Rio on Sunday.
France seized control of the match in the 45th minute when Wilson Palacios received a second caution for a foul on Paul Pogba. Not only did Honduras drop to 10 men, but the foul occurred in the box, allowing Benzema to open the scoring from the penalty spot.
Benzema continued his fine play by creating a scoring opportunity in the 48th minute that saw Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares concede an own goal.
The Real Madrid man completed his fine outing by getting his second of the match in the 72nd minute, lifting Les Blues to a comfortable victory to go level with Switzerland atop Group E.