Switzerland punched their ticket to the World Cup knockout rounds on Friday with a 3-2 against Serbia. The Swiss earned second place in Group G, just behind first-place Brazil. Switzerland are the only other European team besides France to qualify for the knockout stage in five consecutive tournaments since 2014 across World Cups and Euros. Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic recorded goals for Serbia, while Xherdan Shaqiri, Breel Embolo, and Remo Freuler scored in the victory for Switzerland.
An early chance by the Swiss seconds into the match set the chaotic tone of the game only further ruled by the return of Shaqiri to the starting lineup from injury. The Swiss winger scored the opening goal for the team 20 minutes into the match.
The opening goal marked a frantic pace to the game that was fairly open with each side getting chances end to end. An equalizer by Mitrovic just six minutes later and a go-ahead goal by Vlahovic briefly changed momentum for Serbia in their must-win scenario. Serbia failed to hang onto the lead ahead of half time and Embolo delivered the equalizer for the Swiss.
All the action between the two teams was reflective of the final group match energy that has invaded the World Cup fixtures recently. The two teams were fairly even in offensive stats at the half. Switzerland narrowly led in total attempts on target with five compared to four shots on goal by Serbia. Sound defensive organization in the second half ultimately aided the Swiss in their victory.
Relentless pursuit by Embolo haunted Serbia's backline, including an extend run into the box that forced defenders to scramble in recovery. The team was able to combine with lots of open spaces inside the box for Freuler's game-winner.
Switzerland turned the frenzied first half into complete control in the second half. The stifled opportunities for Serbia led to more choppy play and frustrations that boiled over into stoppage time with a brawl feeling just seconds away on multiple occasions.
With the win, Switzerland will face Portugal on Tuesday.