Switzerland just needed a draw to progress to the last 16, and they could probably make it through even if they lost to a winless, goalless Costa Rican side. In two games, Óscar Ramírez’s team hadn’t looked like challenging either Serbia or Brazil, while the Swiss had commendably drawn the highly-rated Brazilians and beaten the Serbs in dramatic circumstances. With their consistent-looking team, it didn’t seem like the Swiss would face too many issues. Then they went onto the pitch. They avoided defeat in the end, but their draw against the Costa Ricans was far from the convincing springboard into the knockout stages they were hoping for.
The warning signs were there early. Switzerland came out of the blocks very sluggishly, and they nearly paid a heavy price. Some lazy turnovers allowed Costa Rica to move forward effectively, and they were soon posing a significant threat. In the opening stages, Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer was required to make three diving saves in the space of a minute, starting with a turnover in midfield. Joel Campbell, into the team for his first start of the tournament and already looking better than Marco Ureña, picked off the poor pass and fired towards the bottom corner. Sommer was still recovering from the first effort when Celso Borges headed the ball towards the same corner, and the Swiss keeper only just managed to deflect it into the post and out. Switzerland cleared, but Cristian Gamboa found some space and forced Sommer into a save that was more straightforward but still slightly tough. It seemed like the Swiss had weathered the storm until they turned the ball over again a few minutes later, allowing Daniel Colindres to fire a shot past Sommer, into the bar and out.
The Swiss soon settled into the game, and Costa Rica’s threat diminished as the Swiss midfielders stopped unnecessarily turning the ball over. There were few chances for either side, as neither team really looked capable of breaking down the other’s defensive structure. Then, just after the half hour, the Swiss did. Stephan Lichtsteiner put in the cross, and Breel Embolo rose above the rest to put the ball back into the path of Blerim Džemaili. Džemaili was in plenty of space, and he really couldn’t miss from close range, directly in front. Keylor Navas had been drawn towards the post by Lichtsteiner’s delivery from the right, and he was unable to intervene as the ball was drilled into the back of the net. The Swiss had started slowly, but they had found their way into the game and it seemed like they would be alright as they went into half time ahead.Embed from Getty Images
Costa Rica celebrate after Kendall Waston’s goal early in the second half. The goal put Colombia level, and placed Switzerland under a bit of pressure.
Costa Rica started the second half well, with Campbell missing an opportunity to capitalise on Borges’ dangerous cross into the centre. They kept putting pressure on the Swiss, however, and when Kendall Waston received a golden opportunity a few minutes later he didn’t make any mistake. The centre-back outworked Manuel Akanji to get his head on Campbell’s corner, and Sommer had no chance as he diverted the ball into the back of the net with force. Waston was pumped, the teams were back on level terms and things were beginning to get interesting. It wasn’t exactly what Switzerland wanted.
The Costa Ricans didn’t really press for a winner after achieving parity, and the game settled into something of a lull with few chances for either side and the Swiss continuing to make little headway against the well-set Costa Ricans. There was a brief flurry of action as Swiss substitute Josip Drmić very nearly scored, heading a ball straight into the bar, and Campbell followed it up by beating a few defenders and creating a chance out of nowhere. After that frantic minute, play settled down once more, returning to its familiar rhythm. Then the Swiss scored again.
Drmić scored the goal, latching onto a good cross from Denis Zakaria. The defensive midfielder pushed upfield and delivered the ball from the right, where it seemed to have rolled straight past Embolo into relative safety. If the Costa Ricans thought this, however, Drmić soon disabused them of the idea that the chance had gone. The striker ran onto the loose ball in the box, and without bothering to take a touch he drilled it straight into the bottom corner, leaving Navas with no chance and making Costa Rica’s hopes of getting a result look pretty slim.Embed from Getty Images
Yann Sommer dives in an attempt to save Bryan Ruiz’s late penalty. The penalty didn’t go in initially, hitting the frame of the goal, but it then bounced off Sommer’s back and into the goals.
Then there was chaos. Costa Rica went forward almost immediately after the goal, and Bryan Ruiz was cut down inside the box by Michael Lang and Ricardo Rodríguez. A penalty was awarded to Costa Rica, although not before Waston had been booked after campaigning for the penalty. Then it turned out that Ruiz was offside, and no penalty was given after all. Not at all discouraged by the close shave, Switzerland then gave away another spot kick. This time Campbell was the recipient, slipping past Zakaria and getting knocked down by a clumsy challenge from the Swiss midfield enforcer. Ruiz was the man charged with taking the penalty, and it didn’t quite go to plan. Costa Rica scored in the end, but it came through one the unluckiest own goals conceded in this tournament. Ruiz slammed his penalty into the bar, and it bounced out. Unfortunately for the Swiss, there was no reprieve, as the ball ricocheted straight into the back of the diving Sommer and went into the back of the net anyway.
Sommer’s very unfortunate own goal was a dissatisfying end to a dissatisfying Swiss performance, which saw Costa Rica come away from their World Cup campaign with a deserved draw and raised a number of doubts about Switzerland’s hopes in this tournament. Against an in-form Sweden, and with Lichtsteiner and Fabian Schär collecting suspensions for accumulated yellow cards that will leave the defence two men short, there will be plenty of concerns for the Swiss going forward. Can they sort out the issues that Costa Rica so effectively highlighted? It’s hard to say.
Nizhny Novgorod – Nizhny Novgorod Stadium
Switzerland 1 (Džemaili 31, Drmić 88)
Costa Rica 1 (Waston 56, Sommer 90+3 og)
Referee: Clément Turpin (Fra)
Switzerland (4-2-3-1): Sommer – Lichtsteiner, Schär, Akanji, Rodríguez; Behrami (Zakaria 60), Xhaka; Shaqiri (Lang 81), Džemaili, Embolo; Gavranović (Drmić 69).
Costa Rica (5-4-1): Navas – Gamboa (Smith 90+3), Acosta, González, Waston, Oviedo; Ruiz, Borges, Guzmán (Azofeifa 90+1), Colindres (Wallace 81); Campbell.
1. Yann Sommer (Switzerland)
A lesser goalkeeper than Sommer may have easily conceded four or five against the very dangerous Costa Rican attack, and the Swiss number one showed his quality with some top-drawer saves. He was very unlucky to concede a late own goal in extraordinary circumstances, but it shouldn’t detract from his excellent effort.
2. Joel Campbell (Costa Rica)
Campbell added pace to the Costa Rican attack, showing how sorely they have missed having a quick, strong striker like him to lead the line in their first two games of this World Cup. He caused the Swiss defence plenty of problems, and was a key reason for Costa Rica’s success.
3. Daniel Colindres (Costa Rica)
Colindres was dangerous on the left wing, cutting inside to create problems and working well with Campbell to create opportunities for Costa Rica in the final third. He was another player left out of the first two games who came in and had a huge impact.
4. Josip Drmić (Switzerland)
Drmić looked dangerous after coming on late in the piece, and had a couple of great chances culminating in a well-finished goal. With Mario Gavranović failing to convince after replacing Haris Seferović in the starting line-up, the door could be open for Drmić to win a start in the knockouts thanks to his efforts.
5. Breel Embolo (Switzerland)
Embolo came into the team with Steven Zuber unavailable, and he showed plenty on the left wing with his pace and strength. He assisted the opening goal with some good aerial work in the box, and he is another one who could use his performance as a springboard into the starting line-up for the rest of the tournament.