Spain win proves false dawn for Swiss
A surprise 1-0 victory over European champions and Group H rivals Spain seemed the perfect way to begin a World Cup campaign and a place in the last 16 suddenly looked attainable with games against Chile and minnows Honduras to come.
In reality, it was a false dawn. Ottmar Hitzfeld's Swiss side had defended astutely against Spain but their unlikely winner was a lucky sucker punch that rose their country's ambitions way beyond the squad's means.
A disappointing 1-0 defeat to Chile, in which a distinct lack of firepower became an increasing hindrance to the side, followed with critics calling for a more attacking approach to satisfy the needs of fans still sniffing a second round spot.
On Friday, the Swiss needed a victory by two goals to ensure their progression in the tournament and they had the best possible opportunity to do it against a Honduras side without a point or goal from their first two matches.
It was not to be. With captain and record scorer Alex Frei on the bench, the 28,042 fans at Bloemfontein's Free State stadium saw a 0-0 stalemate in which an improved Honduras often outplayed a nervous Swiss side bereft of ideas.
"We had great ambitions for this match. It was too much of a burden for them and it got more during the game," Hitzfeld told reporters after the result saw Spain and Chile advance from the group.
"We were lucky Honduras failed to finish their counter-attack properly," he added.
Swiss media were baffled by their team's tournament slide.
For Hitzfeld, who led both Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich to Champions League success as well as winning seven Bundesliga titles in his coaching career, the slump was a bitter pill to swallow.
"We are very disappointed, not just me, the players, everybody," Hitzfeld said. "We failed to deliver because we had too much pressure. We had to score twice."
Drawing was no doubt a disappointment but with only one goal scored in three matches and another not looking likely against Chile or Honduras, the Swiss team can have no complaints with their early exit.