THE worst game of football I have ever, ever seen involved Switzerland. Four years ago, I was in Cologne when the Swiss played Ukraine in a World Cup last-16 match.
I had spotted a few desperate touts trying to sell tickets outside the ground before the game, but decided to watch the first half on a big screen in the city centre. At half-time, I got the tram back to the ground just to see if the touts were still hanging around.
They were, and looked desperate. I bought a 60 euro ticket for 40 euros – and was probably still shortchanged. I don’t remember any significant efforts on goal during normal or extra time. Switzerland couldn’t even score any of their penalties, and went out. Never has a team exited a tournament in such spectacularly boring fashion.
Mind you, Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side had a good go at surpassing those tedium levels in Bloemfontein last night. They beat European champions Spain in their opening match, set a new World Cup defensive record and still managed to go out of the tournament with a whimper.
When Switzerland got to the 67th minute of their game against Chile in Port Elizabeth on Monday at 0-0, they beat Italy’s record for the longest period of match time without letting in a goal at the World Cup finals – a total of 551 minutes, a run stretching back to the 1994 tournament. Eight minutes later, their defence got in a tangle and Mark Gonzalez scored what turned out to be Chile’s winner.
Never mind. Surely they could beat Honduras and qualify for the knockout stages? No.
Sometimes, when watching a football match, it’s possible to get a sense very early on that neither side will score in a month of Sundays. Or in this case, a month of Fridays.
What is it about Friday night games during this World Cup? Two weeks ago we had Uruguay and France play out a dull goalless draw. Last week we had England and Algeria making the Eton wall game look like basketball. And last night in Bloemfontein we had two teams who looked as if they would struggle to score at pinball.
Switzerland’s failure to find the net allowed Chile to go through, despite losing 1-2 to Spain in this World Cup’s only half-decent Friday night game so far.
“We didn’t deserve to qualify because we didn’t score,” Hitzfeld said afterwards, accurately. It’s a point on the World Cup Gubbometer for both teams. To me, it felt as if someone had turned a Swiss clock back four years.
World Cup Gubbometer
1=. Algeria: 2 (CI: 2/3)
1=. Portugal: 2 (CI: 2/3)
3=. Brazil: 1 (CI: 1/3)
3=. Cameroon: 1 (CI: 1/3)
3=. England: 1 (CI: 1/3)
3=. Ivory Coast: 1 (CI: 1/3)
3=. Japan: 1 (CI: 1/3)
3=. France: 1 (CI: 1/3)
3=. Honduras: 1 (CI: 1/3)
3=. New Zealand: 1 (CI: 1/3)
3=. Paraguay: 1 (CI: 1/3)
3=. Slovakia: 1 (CI: 1/3)
3=. Switzerland: 1 (CI: 1/3)
3=. Uruguay: 1 (CI: 1/3)
15=. Everybody else: 0
(NB. Teams are awarded one point every time they take part in a game so mind-numbingly tedious that it would almost certainly have been last on Match of the Day had it been a Premier League fixture. Teams level on points will be separated by the Capello Index – the number of points divided by the number of games played.)