Switzerland sealed their place in the World Cup last 16 following an entertaining five-goal victory over Serbia to round off the group stage.
Switzerland, who knew a draw would be enough to qualify, took an early lead through former Stoke and Liverpool forward Xherdan Shaqiri.
Serbia turned it around in the first half, going 2-1 up with goals from Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic and centre-forward partner Dusan Vlahovic – and they would have gone through as things stood.
The entertainment did not stop there though, as Switzerland’s Breel Embolo equalised on the stroke of half-time when he poked in from close range. With Serbia needing to win, the second half promised further twists but it was Switzerland who struck next – Embolo coolly flicking it on for Nottingham Forest’s Remo Freuler to thump a half-volley into the net and make it 3-2 in their favour.
Further chances came for both sides but Switzerland held on to set up a meeting with Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in the next round, while Serbia are eliminated.It was a game which swung back and forwards with both teams showing plenty of attacking intent and purpose.
Within 30 seconds of kick-off, Serbia goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic had to pull off a smart triple save to block efforts from Granit Xhaka and Embolo. That set the tone for the match and Serbia midfielder Andrija Zivkovic struck the post before Shaqiri put Switzerland in front when his low shot was deflected off Strahinja Pavlovic.
Shaqiri, who was jeered loudly by Serbia fans during the warm-up, ran straight over to them in celebration, putting his finger to his mouth and pointing to his name on the back of his shirt.
He caused controversy with his double eagle celebration in a 2-1 win over Serbia at the Russia World Cup four years ago. Fulham striker Mitrovic responded moments later when he superbly headed a Dusan Tadic cross inside the far post and Serbia shortly went 2-1 up when Vlahovic squeezed a left-footed shot into the corner.
But there was more to come as Switzerland’s Embolo equalised on the stroke of half-time, poking the ball over the line from close range after a great pass in by Silvan Widmer.
He later turned provider with a smart backheel flick to set up Freuler’s matchwinner and from then on, Switzerland grew in stature and looked favourites to see out the victory.
Tensions flared towards the end as Xhaka was pushed in the chest by Serbia’s Nikola Milenkovic and a retaliation earned both players a yellow card as Switzerland held out.