Brazil brushed off their dodgy start in Russia to earn a spot in the Last 16 at Serbia’s expense, while Switzerland also went through, despite being held to a draw by Costa Rica.
The day kicked off with Group E of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia poised for a three-way battle for qualification to the next phase. Brazil were on the top with 4 points from two games, while Switzerland were second, level on points with the leaders, but behind on goal difference.
Serbia were in with a shouting chance of making it through as well, as they stood third with just a point separating them from the top two. And here at THT, we take a look at how the final two matches of Group E – Serbia vs Brazil and Switzerland vs Costa Rica, unfolded on Wednesday.
10th Minute: Switzerland Given Early Scare; Brazil Suffer Injury Blow
Costa Rica, who were already eliminated, were off to a blazing start in Nizhny Novgorod, laying siege to Swiss goal with attack after attack. 33-year-old Daniel Colindres curled in an absolute stunner towards the far post, only to see the ball cannon off of the underside of the crossbar. Early warning shots fired by Los Ticos who meant business.
At around the same time in the other game in Moscow, Brazil were dealt with a bitter blow as one of their most experienced players, Marcelo, limped off the field with an injury just ten minutes into such a crucial tie. His influence down the left-hand side would be missed for the Selecao, although Filipe Luis isn’t the worst replacement to call upon.
31st Minute: Switzerland Take The Lead; Brazil’s Threat Grows
Against the run of play, Switzerland eke past Costa Rica and take the lead, courtesy of a brilliantly struck volley from Blerim Dzemaili, after some neat work by captain Stephan Lichtsteiner down the right flank. It was a crucial moment in the larger scheme of things, as Vladimir Petkovic’s side sat at the top of the group with 7 points as things stood at the moment.
Back in Moscow, Brazil were starting to grow dangerously and were causing the Serbians some issues, mostly through Manchester City star Gabriel Jesus, while talismans Neymar and Philippe Coutinho were starting to get into their elements as well.
36th Minute: Brazil Score; Lichtsteiner Booked
It had been coming for some time now. Coutinho lifted the ball over the Serbian defence and into the box, to find an onrushing Paulinho, who made no mistake from close range, stabbing home past Vladimir Stojkovic and putting Brazil back on top in Group E, while leaving Serbia staring at the prospect of an exit.
Elsewhere, Switzerland captain Lichtsteiner received a yellow card for dissent, after his teammate Xherdan Shaqiri was on the receiving end of a poor challenge by a Costa Rican player. The booking meant, that the newly-signed Arsenal player would miss the first knockout game for accumulation of cards, should his side hold on to the lead and go through.
Half-Time: Serbia Look Set For An Exit; Swiss Playing It Safe
As half-time arrived, the Group E standings looked exactly the way they did when the two matches kicked off. Brazil were displaying some fine attacking play and looked set for the top spot, while Switzerland were happy to play it safe once they took the lead, leaving Serbia on the brink of elimination at half-time.
56th Minute: Costa Rica Back In it; Serbia Smelling A Turnaround
Kendall Waston nodded in the equalizer from a corner to hand Costa Rica their first goal of the tournament in Russia, hampering Switzerland’s chances of topping the group further.
In the other game, Serbia had begun much more brightly post the break and were looking dangerous going forward, with the likes of Dusan Tadic and Adem Ljajic pulling the strings. They still needed all points to go through though, despite Switzerland yielding their lead.
61st-65th Minutes: Serbia Threaten, But Fail To Deliver
Serbia’s big chance of the game came when Ljajic’s cross was deflected onto striker Aleksandar Mitrovic by Brazil goalkeeper Alisson, but the 23-year-old couldn’t make the most of it, as he headed the ball straight to Thiago Silva.
Tadic went close with a chipped effort a minute later, but narrowly missed, while Sergej Milinkovic-Savic also fancied an effort from distance, but failed to test Alisson. Mitrovic was in the thick of things again as he directed another header straight to Alisson. Four chances in the space of four minutes, none of them converted.
68th Minute: Brazil Strike, Serbia Doomed
The Eagles would soon regret the missed opportunities as Thiago Silva rose the highest to head home from a Neymar corner and send Brazil on their way to the next phase, with Serbia set to bow out of the tournament. With Switzerland still on level terms against the Costa Ricans, it looked like the Samba Boys will easily top the group.
83rd Minute: Swiss dealt another suspension blow
With the Serbians destined for a loss, Switzerland’s place in the next phase was all but confirmed. However, they were in for some bad news, as defensive mainstay Fabian Schar picked up a booking, which would see him miss out the next game along with his captain due to suspension.
88th Minute: Switzerland Back In Front
Substitute Josip Drmic was looking lively ever since he came on and having struck the woodwork from a header not very long ago, the striker found the back of the net with a neat finish, to put Switzerland back in the lead. Brazil would still finish at the top of the group though, owing to a superior goal difference.
90th Minute: Costa Rica Penalty; VAR To The Rescue
There was more drama to be unfolded however, as the Central Americans were awarded a penalty after it looked like captain Bryan Ruiz had been fouled in the box. But, on review by the VAR, the decision wasn’t upheld as the former Fulham star was deemed offside.
90+2: Another Penalty To Costa Rica
Having only survived a danger, Switzerland didn’t learn their lessons, as Costa Rica were awarded another penalty, after Denis Zakaria fouled Joel Campbell in the box.
90+3: Ruiz misses, Yet Costa Rica Score; Neymar Misses For Brazil
Stepping up to take the penalty, Ruiz only managed to strike the underside of the crossbar. However, luckily for him and Costa Rica, the ball bounced on to the back of Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer and into the net. Incredible stuff as Los Ticos were drawn level through an own goal that the keeper knew very little idea about.
Meanwhile, Brazil looked home and dry against Serbia and Neymar had a chance to add further gloss to the scoreline, but the PSG star would direct his effort straight at Stojkovic.
Full Time: Brazil, Switzerland Go Through
In what was a winner-takes-all tie, with qualification for the knockout phase at stake, Brazil rose to the occasion to beat Serbia 2-0 and go through to the Round of 16, as we had rightly predicted. The other Group E match that kicked off simultaneously saw a dramatic finish, as Switzerland were held to a 2-2 draw by Costa Rica, but that didn’t stop them from making it to the next round.
The Selecao will now play Mexico, who finished second in Group F, while Switzerland have set up a date against surprise Group F winners Sweden in the next phase of the 21st edition of the FIFA World Cup.