Serbia vs Switzerland. FIFA World Cup Group G.
Match report as Xherdan Shaqiri puts Switzerland ahead but goals from Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic complete Serbia turnaround; Breel Embolo levels in final minute of an epic first half before Remo Freuler scores second-half winner; Switzerland finish 2nd in Group G behind Brazil
Saturday 3 December 2022 07:03, UK
Switzerland booked their place in the World Cup knockout stages with a 3-2 victory, but only after suffering a huge scare from Serbia in an epic four-goal first-half.
Xherdan Shaqiri gave Switzerland the lead with a deflected shot in the 20th minute but Serbia, who had been the better team, equalised through a trademark Aleksandar Mitrovic header and then sensationally led when Dusan Vlahovic found the bottom corner which momentarily moved them second in Group G.
However, Switzerland hit-back through Breel Embolo in the final minute of a thrilling first-half and regained the lead early in the second period from a wonderful team goal, rounded off by Remo Freuler.
Switzerland resolutely saw out the victory to leave Serbia bottom with only one point although the match was marred by reports of a FIFA announcement inside Stadium 974 which asked fans to stop "discriminatory shouts and gestures".
Saturday December 3
Netherlands (Winners of Group A) vs USA (Runners-up of Group B) - Kick-off 3pm
Argentina (Winners of Group C) vs Australia (Runners-up of Group D) - Kick-off 7pm
Sunday December 4
France (Winners of Group D) vs Poland (Runners-up of Group C) - Kick-off 3pm
England (Winners of Group B) vs Senegal (Runners-up of Group A) - Kick-off 7pm
Monday December 5
Japan (Winners of Group E) vs Croatia (Runners-up of Group F) - Kick-off 3pm
Brazil (Winners of Group G) vs South Korea (Runners-up of Group H) - Kick-off 7pm
Tuesday December 6
Morocco (Winners of Group F) vs Spain (Runners-up of Group E) - Kick-off 3pm
Portugal (Winners of Group H) vs Switzerland (Runners-up of Group G) - Kick-off 7pm
Serbia: V. Milinkovic-Savic (6), Milenkovic (5), Veljkovic (5), Pavlovic (6), Zivkovic (6), S. Milinkovic-Savic (6), Lukic (6), Kostic (6), Tadic (7), Mitrovic (7), Vlahovic (7).
Subs: Gudelj (6), Jovic (6), Maksimovic (6), Djuricic (n/a), Radonjic (n/a).
Switzerland: Kobel (6), Widmer (7), Akanji (7), Schar (6), Rodriguez (6), Freuler (7), Xhaka (7), Shaqiri (7), Sow (7), Vargas (7), Embolo (7).
Subs: Fernandes (6), Zakaria (6), Fassnacht (n/a), Okafor (n/a).
Man of the match: Dusan Tadic
Switzerland set the tone for a dramatic first half by becoming the first side in World Cup history to have three shots in the opening minute as Granit Xhaka twice fired at goal with Embolo denied by goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic.
Despite the early scare, Serbia impressed and saw Andrija Zivkovic hit a post with a powerful drive from outside the area yet it was Switzerland who broke the deadlock when Shaqiri's effort found the net via a deflection.
Serbia, though, remained on top and soon Mitrovic drew his side level with a brilliant glancing header from Tadic's perfect cross. Then, just seven minutes later, they were in position to qualify as Vlahovic capitalised on a mistake from Freuler to fire into the bottom corner.
However, there was to be a final twist in the first-half, when Silvan Widmer crossed from the right and Embolo arrived to side-foot home for 2-2.
Things would quickly get worse for Serbia at the start of the second period when Switzerland put together a wonderful move involving Embolo, Shaqiri before Vargas flicked the ball to Freuler, who made up for his earlier error and thumped in the fifth goal of the evening.
Serbia never rediscovered their flowing attacking moves of the first half as the game turned bad-tempered, stoking memories of the controversial clash between the two sides at the 2018 World Cup. Xhaka was involved in an injury-time melee which helped take Serbia's yellow card count for the match to seven.
Serbia manager Dragan Stojkovic said: "When you lose the game, of course we think about (mistakes made by) the defensive line, but we defend and attack as a team.
"We reversed it after 0-1 to make it 2-1, but again we didn't play well defensively. It was so easy for the Swiss to score the second goal, which was really shocking for us. Psychologically, it was very positive for the Swiss.
"These kinds of things at this level of play are forbidden. If you repeat these mistakes, it is very difficult to win. In the future we must work hard and do everything to resolve the problem.
"We came here with a lot of niggles and injuries to our key players. This was very difficult to manage, it was difficult to have a high level of performance at a World Cup. Of course there was a period over the last one and-a-half-years where we had a success streak but now we faced a dip (in form).
"It goes without saying that we had problems in defence, but this would have to undergo a deeper analysis. I shook the players' hands and said they must keep their heads up. They really did their best and gave their maximum."
Cameroon recorded a dramatic 1-0 win over Brazil, but it was not enough for them to reach the last 16 because of Switzerland's win.
Brazil progressed as Group G winners on goal difference.
South Korea secured a place in the last 16 with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Portugal in Group H which knocked out Uruguay despite their 2-0 win over Ghana. Luis Suarez was left in tears at the full-time whistle after Uruguay failed to score a crucial third that would have sent them through on goal difference.