When I wrote the review for this series, I stated that I’d be covering the good, the bad and the ugly of all things World Cup. I’ve reviewed plenty of good games thus far, and a few ugly moments *cough cough Luis Suarez*, but now it’s my unfortunate duty to report the worst game of the modern World Cup era; Switzerland v Ukraine. There have been plenty of underwhelming games over the years, Iran v Nigeria at the 2014 was a particular lowlight, all of England’s World Cup 2010 group games were fairly dire, but Switzerland v Ukraine 2006 was unquestionably a footballing disaster. The team hotels for both sides involved must have stacked their lobbies with copies of the Lemony Snicket books A Series of Unfortunate Events, because that was exactly what this dismal game was. Like the A Series of Unfortunate Events books, the game started with a bad beginning, and as with the book *SPOILERS* there was no real happy ending for the viewer.
The worst part about this game was that it should have been good. Ukraine had been involved in high scoring games and boasted Andriy Shevchenko, one of Europe’s most clinical strikers. Switzerland had enjoyed a good couple of years in qualifying, and finished top of their group, ahead of France. The uneventful 0-0 was painfully uninspiring.
Switzerland almost took the lead early on. Anatolily Tymoschuk, prime string puller in the Ukrainian midfield, misplaced a pass in a bad area of the pitch. His pass was short and Raphael Wicky intercepted easily. He shimmied left and right trying to shake the pressing defence, eventually opting to fire his shot from distance. Wicky’s effort was on target, but was easily stopped by Oleksandr Shovkovskiy in the Ukrainian goal.
In a rare moment of excitement, Ukraine hit the bar! Tymoschuk fired a free kick into the Swiss box. Shevchenko darted in front of his market, diving low to turn his header goalbound. The header fired off the ground and up onto the crossbar. It hit the crossbar, but bounced out for a goal kick, never troubling the Swiss for more than a half second of worry.
A minute later and it was the Swiss who hit the crossbar, direct from a free kick. Rennes striker Alexander Frei struck the free kick with power and precision, the rebound bouncing in to the middle of the box, causing mass panic amongst the Ukrainian ranks. The move fell back into mediocrity as it was finished by Ludovic Magnin firing the rebound so high that it nearly left the stadium in Koln.
The first half wasn’t vintage, but it had its moments. The second half was truly forgettable. A cross fired in to the Swiss box and was met by the head of Andriy Voronin. His header went staggeringly wide despite the lack of pressure on him. Despite this obvious show of sheer talent, Liverpool still decided to sign him on a four year contract
Switzerland had the better team on paper, but it was Ukraine who were taking the game to the Swiss. Shevchenko had a run at the defence which culminated in him firing his shot wide of the mark. With fifteen minutes to go, Tymoschuk whipped in a corner which was met at the near post by Andriy Husin. Husin’s header went wide of the
post and the score finished 0-0 after 90 minutes.
After a long and tedious game, extra time should have rewarded the viewer with some excitement, but alas, there was none to be found. The teams both appeared to have the mentality that if they hadn’t scored by now, they might as well hold off for the lottery of a penalty shoot out.
Amazingly, there was only one real chance in extra, and against the run of play, it was Switzerland who created it. A cross was hit into the box, too high to be directed goalwards. The Ukrainians headed the ball away, but only to the edge of the box. Captain Johann Vogel attempted to score from that shot, but it was far too tame, trickling into the arms of Shovkovskiy.
0-0 after 120 minutes, dire. But a penalty shoot out, maybe this could be exciting, maybe it would go to sudden death, maybe it would be decided by a goalkeepers penalty. In keeping with the match, none of that happened. Even from twelve yards the Swiss couldn’t score.
Andriy Shevchenko hit the first penalty of the shootout. He stepped up confidently, as a captain and prolific goalscorer should, but knocked his penalty softly to his left. The keeper saved it easily. Up for Switzerland was substitute Marco Streller. He exaggerated his run up, but his tame penalty was easily saved by Shovkovskiy.
Artem Mileverskiy and Serhiy Rebrov both scored their penalties for the Ukrainian team to put them in the ascendancy. Switzerland’s playmaker Tranquillo Barnetta blasted his penalty up and off the crossbar, while his countryman Ricardo Cabanas hit his penalty low to his right, easily saved by Shovkovskiy in goal. This put the
pressure on right back Oleh Husyev to step up and win the game. He exuded confidence as he strolled up to the spot, calmly placing his ball and walking a few paces back. He placed the ball low to his left, sending the Ukrainian fans into bedlam. It was easily the most pressured moment of the fullbacks life, and he handled it with ease.
In fairness, the shootout was interesting in its own way, although truly indicative of the game that so few players actually netted. This game, for me, was easily the worst World Cup game of my lifetime. Admittedly, it didn’t have the allure of a big team, but for a knockout game the standard should be higher. Nothing particularly interesting happened, and the few exciting events only occurred off the back of mistakes from the opposition. Ukraine were systematically dismantled by Italy in the next round. Such was the ineptitude of both Switzerland and Ukraine, paired with the strength of Italy, it was inevitable that the azzurri would defeat either side in the Quarter Finals. I am not in the business of discussing subpar games, I chose to report this game due to the fact that it was remarkably bad, impressively terrible. The good news is that after today’s abhorrent game, tomorrow’s is looking to be an absolute treat. Unless you’re an England fan…
Tomorrow’s game: June 27th. Germany v England. 2010.