Switzerland pulled off the biggest shock so far at this FIFA World Cup™ as Gelson Fernandes's strike against the run of play earned them a 1-0 win against European champions and joint-tournament favourites Spain. Vicente del Bosque's team predictably dominated possession but were hit on the break seven minutes into the second half as the Swiss recorded a first win over Spain in 19 attempts.
Stylish Spain had all of the ball in the early stages in Durban, painting pretty patterns around the pitch with astounding ease as the Switzerland chased and harried. The Swiss hardly got a sniff of the ball in the first quarter-hour but were not unduly troubled either as Spain failed to turn their elegant control and ball play into concrete attempts on goal. Their first chance of any real substance came after 25 minutes. After coming forward for a free-kick, centre-back Gerard Pique remained in an advanced position and collected a brilliant through-ball from the lively Andres Iniesta, back from injury in time to make the starting XI. Turning his man with the acumen of a seasoned striker, the tall defender was only denied at the last by the legs of Diego Benaglio, who came roaring bravely off his line.
The Swiss had their only notable attempt of the first period just seconds later, with Reto Ziegler’s free-kick from 20 yards hardly troubling Iker Casillas, the Real Madrid man diving to his left to keep out the tame strike. The UEFA EURO 2008 winners soon shifted the focus back to the other end of the pitch and on the half-hour mark Silva's looping ball from midfield picked out Iniesta racing toward goal. The Barcelona man was pulled back by Stephane Grichting on the edge of the box but Pique slammed the free-kick harmlessly into the Swiss wall. As the opening stanza ground to a halt, Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld was forced to replace influential centre-back Philippe Senderos, who limped off early in a match in his second consecutive FIFA World Cup.
A similar trend developed in the second half, with Spain dictating the patterns but stuttering in front of goal. Their profligacy was punished in the 52nd minute when a long, hopeful ball hoofed up the field was collected by Eren Derdiyok. The outrushing Casillas saved at his feet but the ball ricocheted to Fernandes who slid home from close range. It was only the second shot on goal for the Swiss, who celebrated the unlikely lead with a combination of shock and delight. The Spanish fans were stunned into the silence, but their favourites continued to press in search of that elusive goal. Villa went close on the hour, two minutes before Spain boss Del Bosque added a bit of firepower, bringing Fernando Torres and Jesus Navas off the bench. With their supporters back on their feet again, Iniesta's curler beat Benaglio but drifted the wrong side of the post.
Liverpool man Torres began to torment the defence with his running and pace, leading directly to a vicious strike from Xabi Alonso in the 71st minute which rattled the crossbar and left it shaking. Shortly after Navas saw a chance from close-in well saved by Benaglio as Spanish pressure mounted. The Swiss were dangerous on the break, however, and Derdiyok hit the post with a quarter-hour to go after the Spaniards committed too many men forward. Seconds later Spain lost Iniesta, who limped off after a rough challenge; he may have aggravated the muscle injury that made him a doubt before the game. In his absence, Spain endured only further frustration and they will need to rebound against Honduras at Ellis Park on 21 June. The Swiss take on Chile, the other Group H winners, earlier that same day in Nelson Mandela Bay.