Durban, June 16 (DPA) World Cup favourites Spain kicked off their football World Cup campaign in the worst way possible with a shock 0-1 defeat to Switzerland at the Durban Stadium here Wednesday.
The Swiss had never beaten Spain, who were on an extraordinary run of 45 wins in their last 48 games but Saint Etienne striker Gelson Fernandes turned Group H on its head with the 52nd minute winner.
Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque said all was not lost for the European Champions despite the nightmare start. ‘We went all out for the victory but it was just not our day,’ he said. ‘It is important to win the first game but now we have to win our next two matches.
‘Our World Cup is not over. We have two games still to play. We tried everything possible to win the game but we lacked a little bit of precision in front of goal.’
Spain played the defensive Swiss off the park in the first 45 minutes but could not take advantage of their domination and the Spanish FA’s Sporting Director Fernando Hierro was left trying to lift his players after the reverse.
He said: ‘The important thing is the character of the team. We kept playing with four strikers and we created a lot of chances. This was not the plan but nobody said it was going to be easy.’
Former Bayern Munich boss Ottmar Hitzfeld praised his players for their ‘historic’ achievement. He said: ‘We had to rely on counter attacks but we did so very intelligently.
‘I am very proud of my players. I believe my team achieved something historic today because Switzerland had not beaten Spain in I think 105 years of history.’
Spain had Andres Iniesta fit to start but left both Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres on the bench while the Swiss left striker Alexander Frei on the bench and played Blaise NKufo in his place as the lone striker.
Spain had plenty of early possession but did not create a clear cut opening until the 17th minutes when David Silva broke down the left but shot straight at Diego Benaglio.
In the 25th minute, Spain should have taken the lead when central defender Gerard Pique ran on to a pass from Iniesta inside the Swiss penalty area. He turned inside his marker but saw his shot saved by the legs of Benaglio.
Iker Casillas was called into action when he had to save from Reto Ziegler but Spain were soon back attacking and Stephane Grichting was booked for hauling Iniesta down on the edge of the box.
David Villa fired the free-kick into the wall and the resulting corner came to nothing. The Swiss then lost central defender Philippe Senderos in the 36th minute.
The Everton defender, whose father is Spanish, had bizarrely injured himself tackling his own team-mate and had to be replaced by Steve von Bergen.
Spain’s pressure continued in the second half when they immediately won a corner but when the kick dropped to Xabi Alonso he shot over.
Then, things went horribly wrong on 52 minutes when Eren Derdiyok reached a long pass over the top before Spain keeper Casillas.
The loose ball looped up towards goal and with Pique grounded inside the six-yard box and unable to make the clearance, Fernandes arrived to finish into an empty net.
In the 62nd minute Liverpool striker Fernando Torres and Jesus Navas replaced David Silva and Sergio Busquets. Torres immediately threatened down the right and when the ball ran to Xavi he shot just wide.
In the 70th minute, Alonso rattled the cross bar with a shot from a Xavi corner but it was to be the closest Spain came to getting the equaliser.
The Swiss could even have doubled their lead when Eren Derdiyok wriggled past first Pique and then Carles Puyol before hitting the post with Casillas beaten.
The Swiss now face joint group leaders Chile on Monday with Spain up against Honduras.