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FIFA World Cup: Swiss eliminated; play out a drab stalemate against Honduras

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barnetta.jpgSwitzerland got knocked out of the 2010 FIFA World Cup after dishing out a dull draw in their final Group H game against Honduras. The Swiss paid for a lacklustre first half - which betrayed their need to go for goals to make through to the last 16 - and their desperate measures didn't amount to much in the second half either. They join Honduras on the flight back home, while Spain and Chile go through to the knock-out rounds where the duo will clash against Portugal and Brazil respectively.

Switzerland and Honduras locked horns today at the Free State Stadium in Pretoria knowing all too well that mathematical permutations held hopes for either team to go through to the last 16. Switzerland's chances on paper seemed more realistic as a victory by a 2 goal margin on the night would have guaranteed them a place among the elite 16 at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Honduras on the other hand were really playing for pride as even the most ardent of their supporters wouldn't have put even a Lempira on them going through to the next round.

Switzerland made two changes to their team from their last match against the Chileans as Eren Derdiyok replaced Alexander Frei up front, while Tranquillo Barnetta came in place of the suspended Valon Behrami. Honduras, on the other hand made 6 changes to the line up that lost 2-0 to Spain - Bernardez, Sabillon, Hendry Thomas, Nunez, Alvarez and Jerry Palacios replacing Izaguirre, Mendoza, Guevara, Turcios, Espinoza and Martinez. The match promised to be an entertaining one with the Swiss needing to go for goals and Honduras looking to spoil the party and give themselves an outside chance to qualify to the last 16.

Honduras started the match on the front foot with their slick and assured passing. The Hondurans however, seemed to lack the composure in the final third as they couldn't find the right passes to make the breakthrough. The first piece of goalmouth action came from the Swiss when Barnetta and Gokhan Inler linked up well only for the latter to drag a low shot wide. Given the state of affairs in the table, it was surprising to see the approach of the Swiss team - even against a Honduran side that has failed to score a goal for ages, the Swiss seemed content to sit back and wait for some seemingly divine intervention.

The frustration was almost put to an end with a Derdiyok header in the 16th minute from an exquisite Barnetta cross, but the striker somehow missed. The lively Barnetta then tried a 25 yard effort in the 22nd minute which the Honduran keeper Valladares held on the second attempt. The half lacked any incisiveness with both teams seemingly playing in second gear and lacking the creative spark to set the game alight. Half time came eventually and there was an urgent need for something to change drastically. The surprising lack of drive from the Swiss in a game of such importance was completely unfathomable.

News from Pretoria was positive with Spain up 2-0, and Switzerland now just needing a solitary goal to go through should the scoreline stand. The second half started with Switzerland replacing Gelson Fernandes with Hakan Yakin in a bid to provide a creative spark and some very valuable experience in the final third. David Suazo gave the Europeans a major scare in the 52nd minute when he headed Alvarez's exceptional cross wide of the goal. It was by far the best chance of the match and also a stern reminder to the Swiss to get their act together. Hakan Yakin's introduction seemed to be having an effect as the experienced playmaker created space and found players with some delightful balls. Barnetta then got Switzerland perilously close to netting the opener at the hour mark, but he shot tamely at Valladares despite having Yakin in a better position on his outside.

Honduras on the other hand, were playing rather well on the counter as Switzerland threw in more numbers in the attacking half. Diego Benaglio pulled out an exceptional  save in the 71st minute to keep the Swiss afloat in the tournament as he parried away an Alvarez strike destined for the top corner. Worryingly for the European side, the Hondurans were the ones creating the better chances. Alexander Frei came close with two attempts in two minutes as he first blazed a shot over the cross bar and then failed to keep his effort down from a well struck Yakin free kick.

The Swiss desperation levels reached a crescendo as they needed 2 goals to go through to the last 16 with 10 minutes remaining on the clock. The goal never came for the European side as Honduras held firm. The Swiss came close on more than a couple of occasions with Frei and Yakin going the closest; however, the lack of a finishing touch cost Switzerland dearly as they got eliminated from the FIFA World Cup 2010. It was a disappointing end to their tournament; especially after their shock 1-0 win over Spain in the first group fixture. They are now left to rue a ‘cagey' mindset in the first half that enabled the Hondurans to settle into the match and eventually hold the Swiss to a stalemate.

Honduras ended their campaign on a positive note though as they played well and looked the better team on the night against the Swiss. The Honduran defence bailed them out in the qualifying stages but against decidedly better teams, they need better quality in the attacking third. The CONCACAF nation would only benefit from the experience at the biggest stage and hopefully, go much further in future editions of World Cup.

Teams:

Switzerland: Benaglio, Grichting, Bergen, Ziegler, Lichtsteiner, Inler, Huggel (Shaqiri 77'), Fernandes (Yakin 45'), Barnetta, N'Kufo (Frei 69'), Derdiyok

Honduras: Valladares, Bernardez, Chavez, Figueroa, Sabillon, Thomas, Wilson Palacios, Nunez (Martinez 66'), Alvarez, Suazo (Turcios 86'), Jerry Palacios (Welcome 78')

Final Score: Switzerland 0-0 Honduras

Check out the Points Table

Also Read:

Spain 2-1 Chile - Match Report

File Photograph Copyright: Reto Stauffer

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