BRASILIA, Brazil — Switzerland grabbed a winner with virtually the final kick to earn a 2-1 victory over Ecuador in the World Cup on Sunday, extending a run of come-from-behind wins that are becoming a theme of the tournament.
With just seconds left in the third and final minute of stoppage time, substitute Haris Seferovic finished off a length-of-the-field move by slamming home a close-range shot. After wild Swiss celebrations, Ecuador’s shell-shocked players barely had time to restart before the final whistle was blown.
It was the fifth time in the first nine matches in Brazil that a team had come from a goal down to win — but this was the most dramatic of all the comebacks.
“It was a dream to be able to win this match in the very last minute like this,” Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said through a translator. “It was emotional — it will be important for the morale of the team.”
Sluggish in the first half-hour, Switzerland — highly fancied after rising to No. 6 in the FIFA rankings — conceded a sloppy goal to go behind when Enner Valencia rose unmarked in the 22nd minute and headed in a free kick from six yards (meters).
Ecuador’s defending for the 48th-minute equalizer was just as abject, however, with Admir Mehmedi finding space from even closer in to nod in a corner.
With Mehmedi and Seferovic both second-half substitutes, it was no wonder that the wily Hitzfeld — a veteran coach with two Champions League titles on his resume — had a huge grin on his face at the final whistle.
Not so his counterpart.
“We were naive and that cost us the game,” Ecuador coach Reinaldo Rieda said. “(The loss) is more our fault. We were not beaten by our opponent.”
After being among the bores of the last two World Cups, it was expected to be all change for Switzerland with Hitzfeld putting his faith in a young, dynamic class of 2014 that had come up together through the national youth ranks.
But nerves ensured they started the World Cup poorly, misplacing simple passes and overhitting crosses in a drab first half. The second half wasn’t much better either — but Seferovic rescued them, having only come on in the 75th minute for the ineffective Josip Drmic.
The Real Sociedad forward scored a 90th-minute winner against Cyprus in June in Switzerland’s unbeaten run through qualifying but he has lost his place to the emerging Drmic.
“Haris is a striker through and through,” Hitzfeld said. “What he lacked was practice in terms of playing time at Real Sociedad. In the tournament build-up, he performed excellently but he still needs time to develop.”
Seferovic scored the crucial goal, but teammate Valon Behrami deserves just as much credit.
It was the central midfielder who produced a perfectly timed tackle in his own box and then embarked on a lung-bursting run up the field in the lead-up to the winning goal. At one stage, he was hacked down near the center circle but he got up and carried on his run, with the referee playing an excellent advantage.
The ball was fed to the left, where left back Ricardo Rodriguez — who set up Mehmedi for the equalizer — slid a low cross for Seferovic to crash a finish high in to the net.
Cue Switzerland’s entire bench spilling into the pitch to celebrate with Seferovic, with some players choosing to mob Behrami.
“It was a great feeling,” Behrami said. “Those 30 seconds were amazing for us.”
France 3, Honduras 0
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — Karim Benzema scored twice and created a third that was confirmed by goal-line technology as France beat Honduras in its first World Cup match.
The dominant win was a relief for France, whose team of highly paid players failed to win in South Africa and was sent home in disgrace after going on a training strike.
“Winning 3-0 at a World Cup isn’t easy,” France coach Didier Deschamps said. “(The players should) savor the moment, there’s nothing more wonderful.”
France dominated the match from the opening whistle, despite a series of scrappy tackles by the Honduran team seeking its first World Cup win.
Benzema’s first goal came from the penalty spot just before halftime after Wilson Palacios was sent off with his second yellow card for charging into the back of Paul Pogba. The Real Madrid striker calmly slotted the ball to the left of Noel Valladares to give Les Bleus a deserved lead going into the break.
With Honduras down to 10 men, France continued to dominate and Benzema created the second goal in the 48th minute — the first to be confirmed by goal-line technology at the World Cup.
Benzema latched onto a long ball by Yohan Cabaye and his shot hit the post and came back across goal before Valladares fumbled it over his own line. With the new technology system confirming the ball crossed the line, referee Sandro Ricci gave the own goal despite Honduran protests.
Benzema scored his second in the 72nd, firing in powerfully from inside the area after a long range shot by right back Mathieu Debuchy was blocked.
“It’s my first World Cup and I think we’re all satisfied with the result,” Benzema said. “It was important to win this match.”
French keeper Hugo Lloris didn’t have to touch the ball until the 31st minute and didn’t have to make a save all night.
RIO DE JANEIRO — Lionel Messi scored a stunning second-half goal to push staggering Argentina to victory over Bosnia at the Maracana in the Group F opener for both teams.
Messi lifted Argentina in the 65th minute, moving in from the right and striking a low left-footed shot off the inside of the post behind Bosnian keeper Asmir Begovic. It was Messi’s second World Cup goal, adding to one he scored eight years ago in Germany.
Vedad Ibisevic scored a close-in goal in the 85th to give Bosnia hope.
Argentina took a 1-0 lead in the third minute on an own-goal by defender Sead Kolasinac. For the remainder of the half, Argentina showed little with Messi seldom touching the ball and Bosnia, a World Cup debutant, looking more threatening.