Swiss stun Portugal but Santos sure of Cup berth

BASEL • Switzerland struck twice in quick succession to stun Euro 2016 champions Portugal 2-0 in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday and hand them a first competitive defeat in two years under coach Fernando Santos.

Breel Embolo headed Switzerland ahead in the 23rd minute and Admir Mehmedi doubled the lead just six minutes later as Portugal's defence, almost impregnable in France in June, dramatically unravelled in the Group B match.

Portugal, missing talismanic forward and record scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, regained their composure and dominated the rest of the game but were hopelessly ineffective in attack.

The Portuguese had 27 attempts on goal to Switzerland's eight but only four were on target. They had 12 efforts blocked and 11 went wide while they also won 11 corners to one for the hosts.

Santos was appointed coach in September 2014 and had not lost in 14 competitive games, seven in Euro 2016 qualifiers and seven in the tournament itself.

"In the first 20 minutes, the Swiss were completely over-run but they scored a goal and from then on, used the tactics that Portugal often use and defended well," Santos told reporters.

"Our opponents were more pragmatic and more efficient.

"But I am sure we will start winning and winning and winning... and I'm convinced we will be at the World Cup."

  • 1
    Number of defeats in 15 competitive games European champions Portugal suffered under Fernando Santos.

In Group A, Euro 2016 runners-up France also showed signs of a hangover from their summer exertions as Les Bleus were held to a 0-0 draw in Belarus.

France have had problems against Belarus in the recent past, including taking just one point against the former Soviet Republic in Euro 2012 qualifying.

Paul Pogba started for the visitors in Borisov, but coach Didier Deschamps made six changes compared to the side that lost the European Championship final, leaving Dimitri Payet on the bench.

With Les Bleus lacking attacking inspiration, though, Payet came on for Anthony Martial just before the hour mark but his creativity was not enough for a Belarus side who would be happy to collect a point.

"We should have done better in the first period," Deschamps said.

"Then, in the second half, we created a lot of chances but came up against a goalkeeper who made some wonderful stops. But that's football.

"We can always do better. When we do not finish our chances, we cannot win. This time we failed to capitalise."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 08, 2016, with the headline 'Swiss stun Portugal but Santos sure of Cup berth'. Print Edition | Subscribe