Serbia vs Switzerland 2-3: Freuler Sends the Swiss Through

The closing match of the 2022 World Cup Group Stage delivered the only verdict that was still missing: It will be Switzerland to join Brazil into the Round of 16 as they beat Serbia 3-2 at the Stadium 974 with goals from Xherdan Shaqiri, Breel Embolo and Remo Freuler.

For the second World Cup edition in a row, the Swiss won their match against the Balkans, thus eliminating them from the competition. They will now face Portugal on Tuesday in the Round of 16. 

For a few minutes, Murat Yakin’s side also had the possibility to end their group on top. When Vincent Aboubakar scored Cameroon’s shocking winner against Brazil in the other group game, the Swiss needed only one more goal to tie Brazil’s goal difference and advance as first for having scored more than the Selecao.

But there were just a few minutes left and, at that point, Switzerland must have thought that making it past the Group Stage was already enough.

Serbia, on the other hand, came home after tallying only one point. They conceded eight goals in three group stage games (only Costa Rica did worse than that). That says a lot about their overall effectiveness in defense, especially considering that goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic was one of the few positive notes from their ruinous expedition to Qatar. 

Switzerland came into the game knowing that a draw was going to be enough for them to qualify, but they showed they wanted to get the job done fast and collected three shots on target in the initial minute. The Serbian answered with an Andrija Zivkovic shot on 10 minutes that hit the post.

Coach Dragan Stojkovic deployed his Serbia side with an ultra-offensive setup where Dusan Tadic supported Aleksandar Mitrovic and Juventus’ Dusan Vlahovic upfront. However, it was the Swiss to be in control of the operations and it didn’t take long for breach through the shaky Balkan defense. 

On 20 minutes, Ricardo Rodriguez sent the ball into the box for Djibril Sow, whose pass for Shaqiri was turned into Switzerland’s opener by the Chicago Fire winger with a sharp shot to the far post. It was Shaqiri’s second goal to Serbia, following his goal from four years ago when the two sides met in the 2018 World Cup. 

The Serbians were well alive, however, and managed to turn the game around with goals form Mitrovic and Vlahovic. On both occasions, the former Atalanta midfielder Freuler was to blame. On 26 minutes, he lost the ball in the midfield and triggered Tadic’s counterattack, which ended with a cross for Mitrovic’s winning header. 

It was the third goal in Qatar for the Fulham striker, but unfortunately his run to the top goalscorer title ended tonight. 

Ten minutes later, the story was pretty much the same: Freuler made a passing mistake and Tadic took advantage of that, this time serving Vlahovic the chance for a clinical shot into the bottom left corner of Gregor Kobel’s goal.

Switzerland drew themselves level before the break as Embolo tapped the ball in from a Silvan Widmer pass. At half time, the score was 2-2 with the Swiss with one foot in the door of the Round of 16. 

Right after the restart, it was redeem time for Freuler, who put his stamp on the final goal of the night. Serbia were caught by surprise as Shaqiri painted a brilliant cutting pass in the middle of the box, where Eduard Vargas serviced Freuler with a fine back heel pass. The former Atalanta man fired it past Torino’s Vanja Milinkovic-Savic to make it 3-2 for the Swiss. 

At that point, Serbia needed two goals to overturn the situation and get the ticket to the knockouts. They didn’t seem to have what it took for that and Kobel suffered no additional threats. The Serbians protested vehemently for an alleged foul on Mitrovic in the box but the referee waved play on.   

Conversely, it was Switzerland to come closer to score a fourth but Embolo incredibly fired the ball into the stands of the Stadium 974 from point blank range. 

The match became tense and nervous as neither side found the back of the net anymore. Switzerland could not score the goal that would have earned them the top spot in the group (and a possibly easier Round of 16 pairing vs South Korea), while Serbia could not spoil their party by scoring one that would have qualified Cameroon rather than Murat Yakin’s Rossocrociati side.    



December 2, 2022 – FIFA World Cup Group G

SCORERS: 20′ Shaqiri (Sw), 26′ Mitrovic (Se), 35′ Vlahovic (Se), 44′ Embolo (Sw), 48′ Freuler (Sw)

SERBIA (4-3-1-2): V. Milinkovic-Savic; Milenkovic, Veljkovic (55′ Gudelj), Pavlovic; Zivkovic (78′ Radonjic), S. Milinkovic-Savic (68′ Maksimovic), Lukic, Kostic; Tadic (78′ Djuricic); Vlahovic (55′ Jovic), A. Mitrovic (Dmitrovic, Rajkovic, Erakovic, S. Mitrovic, Babic, Racic, Lazovic, Ilic, Mladenovic, Grujic) Coach: Stojkovic
SWITZERLAND (4-3-3): Kobel; Widmer, Akanji, Schar, Rodriguez; Sow (69′ Fernandes), Freuler, Xhaka; Shaqiri (69′ Zakaria), Embolo (96′ Okafor), Vargas (83′ Fassnacht) (Omlin, Seferovic, Steffen, Aebischer, Comert, Frei, Rieder, Jashari) Coach: Stojkovic
REFEREE: Mr. Rapallini (Argentina)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Widmer Vargas, Xhaka, Schar (Sw), S. Milinkovic-Savic, Pavlovic, Rajkovic, Gudelj, A. Mitrovic, Milenkovic, Lukic (Se); Added Time: 1st Half 3′, 2nd Half 11′
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