Switzerland join Brazil in knockouts after downing Serbia in game of the tournament

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Switzerland have secured a spot in the last 16 after defeating Serbia in a frantic thriller at Ras Abu Aboud, turned 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 win with a stunning second half goal from Remco Freuler the difference.

Cameroon secured a surprise 1-0 over Brazil – who were already through and rested most of their stars – but that was not enough to put them through. Vincent Aboubakar scored the late header, took his shirt off to celebrate, and was sent off.

Serbia are out, with their defensive limitations their ultimate undoing: they conceded eight across three games, far too porous to advance. The Swiss fared far better, shutting out Cameroon and keeping Brazil to just one – and that a wonder goal – and added attacking flair today, admittedly enabled by a generous Serbian defence.

This was, unquestionably, the game of the tournament so far. That had been predicted, with all the elements required for a cracker: tension, with neither side’s place secure, but also subtext, with the memories of 2018’s politically charged meeting fresh in the mind.

Back then, Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka scored for Switzerland and made gestures reflecting their Kosovar Albanian heritage, causing outrage in Serbia. In a game that didn’t need any hyping on the field, this had plenty off it as well. FIFA had to make several announcements within the stadium against discriminatory chanting from Serbian fans.

On the pitch, more than delivered. Switzerland might have scored within 30 seconds, as Breel Embolo and Xhaka, following up, had presentable chances. Andrija Zivokic replied by hitting a post for Serbia.

Shaqiri, booed and whistled throughout his time on the park, got the first on 20 minutes. It was emblematic of what the Swiss did well and what the Serbs failed to do.

Ricardo Rodriguez advanced high up the left and crossed from almost the byline, with the rebound falling to Djibril Sow, who showed all his composure to pick out Shaqiri, who did the rest. Serbia, set up in a 3-5-2, were left wondering where both of their wingbacks were.

The struck back, however, in characteristic fashion. Filip Kostic won the ball in midfield, broke and picked Mitrovic in the middle. The Fulham striker might be the best header of a ball in the world, and his finish into the far corner was perfection.

Shaqiri should have put Switzerland back in front, and was immediately made to rue his miss, with Dusan Vlahovic placing beyond Gregor Kobel in the Swiss goal after a Mitrovic pass.

On the brink of half time, it was 2-2. Again, the wing defence of Serbia was side open as the Swiss advanced and again, Sow was the man to expose it. He fed Silvan Widmer on the right, who crossed low to give Embolo a simple back post finish.

The turnaround was completed through one of the goals of the tournament. Shaqiri was the architect, dinking a pass into Ruben Vargas, who backheeled a pass for Freuler to apply the finish.

Though Serbia needed to score twice to go through, it was Switzerland who looked more likely. Embolo missed a sitting – though he may have been offside – and Manuel Akanji sent a free kick into the sidenetting. In response, the Serbs only managed efforts from range.

In the closing stages, Cameroon grabbed a goal against Brazil and briefly opened the door for Switzerland to top the group, but they proved much more interested in winding up Serbian players than scoring goals. Nemanja Radonjic fired wide late on, but that was that.

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