Belfast Telegraph

Vladimir Petkovic feels reaching last 16 was ‘minimum objective’ for Switzerland

A 2-2 draw with Costa Rica sets up clash with Sweden in the knockout rounds.

Switzerland boss Vladimir Petkovic insists reaching the last 16 of the World Cup was the “minimum objective” as they prepare to face Sweden next week.

An eventful 2-2 draw against Costa Rica in Nizhny Novgorod secured Switzerland’s place as runners-up to Brazil in Group E and paved the way for an all-European clash for a spot in the quarter-finals.

Blerim Dzemaili opened the scoring for Switzerland after they had been largely on the back-foot with Kendall Watson marking his introduction into the Costa Rica side by levelling with a second-half header.

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Dzemaili opened the scoring for Switzerland after they had made a slow start. (Natasha Pisarenko/AP)

Josip Drmic came off the bench to seemingly win it for the Swiss late on, only for a late Costa Rica equaliser coming courtesy of a Yann Sommer own goal as Bryan Ruiz’s penalty went in off the Switzerland goalkeeper.

The late leveller did not impact on Switzerland’s place in the group and now Petkovic is targeting a long run in the knockout stages.

“The round of 16 was the minimum objective that we set ourselves that we had to achieve,” he said in his post-match press conference.

“Now we can focus on our next opponent. It was a moment when I wanted to field my best players and make sure all of them play.”

Switzerland will have to make do without captain Stephan Lichtsteiner and fellow defender Fabian Schaer after the pair were shown their second yellow cards of the tournament against Costa Rica.

That means the duo will be suspended for the meeting with Sweden in St Petersburg on Tuesday but Petkovic is certain he has the strength in depth to succeed.

“We got two yellow cards but we have 23 players in our squad and I’m happy to have the trust in the remaining players,” he added.

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Switzerland captain Stephan Lichtsteiner is banned for the last 16 meeting with Sweden. (Mark Baker/AP)

“I’m sure all of the players we field in the future will give 120 per cent and I think the team can cope. It’s too bad for those two guys but it’s too late to lament that now.”

Costa Rica were one of the surprise packages at the 2014 World Cup, advancing as winners from a group containing England, Italy and Uruguay.

They were less successful this time around and were already out before showing glimpses of their true ability as they dominated large swathes of the game against Switzerland.

There was late drama as Ruiz thought he had won a penalty only for VAR to show he was offside before the referee pointed to the spot.

Another penalty was awarded moments later as Joel Campbell was fouled, Ruiz missing the chance to score on his international swansong as his effort crashed against the bar.

Sommer may have been unlucky to concede an own goal but made some marvellous saves as Costa Rica created the better chances throughout.

“During the first 20 to 25 minutes we were able to recover very important balls,” Costa Rica coach Oscar Ramirez said.

“Not after that; there were many opportunities where they could recover balls and the transitions were quite quick and strong, so our defence started suffering a little bit with those quick transitions.

“During the second half we were able to correct that and to pressure. Also, my men have been playing together for some time so they knew how to control the situation. I think we didn’t deserve to lose, maybe it was a fair result.”

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