Hitzfeld hails Seferovic, Behrami after last-gasp Ecuador win

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld hailed goalscorer Haris Seferovic and midfielder Valon Behrami after they helped conjure a last-gasp victory over Ecuador in their opening World Cup Group E game on Sunday.

Switzerland's Diego Benaglio (L) and Switzerland's coach Ottmar Hitzfeld acknowledge the fans as they walk off the pitch following their 2014 World Cup Group E soccer match win against Ecuador at the Brasilia national stadium in Brasilia June 15, 2014. REUTERS/David Gray

With seconds left on the clock at the national stadium in Brasilia, Behrami flung himself into a tackle to deny Ecuador’s Michael Arroyo a shooting chance in the Swiss penalty area before surging upfield.

After he was felled by an opponent he picked himself up in a flash and the referee waved play on, the ball eventually finding its way to Ricardo Rodriguez on the left whose pinpoint cross was hammered in by substitute Seferovic from close range.

“I very much enjoyed that play when Valon was fouled but then noticed there was a chance to counter attack,” Hitzfeld told a news conference.

“It is always very important to use your intuition and make the most of those chances,” added the German.

“We knew that Ecuador, when they are attacking, sometimes don’t get back to defend so quickly and there are holes and we were able to make very good use of that.

“It was a dream end to the game for us and very important for the morale of the team. It will give us some extra strength for the next two matches (against France and Honduras).”

Seferovic had come off the bench to replace Josip Drmic in the 75th minute and while Hitzfeld had words of praise for the burly 22-year-old, who plays for Spanish side Real Sociedad, he also noted room for improvement.

Seferovic made little impact in La Liga last season, scoring only two goals in 24 appearances in Spain’s top division, and also had a run-in with the police after a public row with his partner.

“Seferovic is a full-blooded center forward who moves very well,” Hitzfeld said.

“He also has the physique to compete against robust opponents,” he added.

“What he lacks is playing time which he unfortunately hasn’t been getting at Real Sociedad.

“He already played very well for us in qualifying and he has talent, but of course he has room for improvement.”

Switzerland’s next match in the group is against France on Friday in Salvador and they meet Honduras in Manaus five days later.

“I am convinced that this match will give us strength and self-confidence to play better next time,” Hitzfeld said of the Ecuador win.

“There is a lot of room for improvement and today was a victory of the will. We have to improve if we want to have a chance against France, but I am happy to already have three points in the bag.”

Editing by Mike Collett-White