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  • Writer's pictureBruno Asoka

Swiss through after thrilling win over Serbia

Switzerland secured three consecutive FIFA World Cup (WC) knockout stage appearances for the first time in their history following an enthralling 3-2 win over Serbia at Stadium 974.

After forcing Vanja Milinković-Savić into a double save to save Breel Embolo and Granit Xhaka in the first minute, Murat Yakin's team sprang into action. It was a lively beginning as Nikola Milenković headed  Dušan Tadić's corner just wide while rising highest in the box. Then  Tadić set up Andrija Živković whose long shot ricocheted off the goalpost.

Dragan Stojković’s team showed a lot of potential, but Xherdan Shaqiri scored the game's first goal in the twentieth minute. After making a strong run down the left wing, Ricardo Rodriguez's cross was cleared into Djibril Sow's path, who then set up the former Liverpool player for a deflected goal beyond Milinković-Savić. Along with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, he became just the third player to score in each of the last three World Cups. But their advantage was short-lived, as Aleksanda Mitrović  scored his eighth goal in his previous seven Serbia appearances in all competitions with a superb header from a gorgeous Tadić cross just six minutes later.

The game was then turned around by Dušan Vlahović  , who scored his maiden World Cup goal with a precise left-footed effort. A breathless first half was capped off by Sow's goal, which moved Switzerland back into second place as he converted Silvan Widmer's cross.

This was the first time since France defeated Paraguay 7-3 in 1958 that both teams scored twice before halftime in a group stage match. Plenty of statistics have seemingly fallen by the wayside at this World Cup. The fact that Yakin's team scored again through Remo Freuler three minutes into the second half was encouraging for the remainder of the game.

Following some opulent link-up play involving Shaqiri and Ruben Vargas, the Nottingham Forest midfielder restored their advantage with Vargas providing an amazing back-heeled assist.

The goal ultimately proved to be decisive for Serbia, who are still searching for their first World Cup knockout round. They were left lamenting a terrible case of déjà vu after losing 2-1 to Switzerland in 2018 robbed them a spot in the round of 16. The Rossocrociati may now anticipate a fight with Portugal on next Tuesday.

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