Switzerland beats Cyprus 1-0 in WCup qualifier
GENEVA (AP) — Switzerland took a huge step toward Brazil on Saturday when substitute Haris Seferovic scored in the 90th minute for a 1-0 victory over Cyprus in a World Cup qualifying match.
The Swiss moved four points clear atop their group one day after closest challengers Albania and Iceland both failed to win home qualifiers.
“It’s a very important victory and a big step,” said Switzerland assistant coach Michel Pont, who stood in for Ottmar Hitzfeld as the veteran coach completed a two-match touchline ban imposed by FIFA. “It was exactly the match we expected. Well done to the team for its patience.”
Still, Switzerland seemed poised to waste a golden opportunity until Seferovic pounced on Xherdan Shaqiri’s astute angled pass into the penalty area.
The 21-year-old Fiorentina forward cleverly lifted his left-foot shot over goalkeeper Antonis Georgallides high into the net.
Switzerland had seemed destined for a second straight goalless draw littered with missed chances against a Cyprus side limited in ambition but resolute in defense.
Switzerland, which seeks to reach its third straight World Cup tournament, has four matches remaining and next hosts Iceland on Sept. 6. Cyprus remains last in the six-team group.
With Zurich teammates Josip Drmic and Mario Gavranovic leading the home attack, both came close to scoring in the seventh minute.
Drmic’s slow-rolling shot toward an unguarded goal was cleared for a corner by defender Angelis Charalampous, and the left-flank cross found Gavranovic for a header which struck the far post.
Basel winger Valentin Stocker was the spark in a bright early period, and Shaqiri had two shots blocked in quick succession just before the break.
Cyprus seldom threatened, though Swiss ’keeper Diego Benaglio saved smartly low to his right from Nektarios Alexandrou’s shot in the 61st.
Gavranovic drew diving saves from Georgallides with two second-half shots and Shaqiri was more wasteful, failing to finish off a three-on-one break in the 53rd and shooting straight at Georgallides in the 87th.
The Bayern Munich winger showed his class with the decisive pass, cutting through the Cypriot back line into the path of Seferovic, for the former Under-17 World Cup winner to get first senior international goal.