DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA – The Swiss National Team stunned the world on Wednesday when they topped European champion Spain 1-0 on a second-half goal by Gelson Fernandes.
Sounders FC’s Blaise Nkufo played the ball to Eren Derdiyok on a run into the box. Gerard Pique made a desperate tackle of Derdiyok, but the ball fell to Fernandes in front of an open net for the 52nd minute goal.
The 24th ranked team in the world, Switzerland had never beaten No. 2 ranked Spain in 18 previous meetings. We caught up with the Sounders FC striker after the match.
Q: What was the team’s mindset going into the match with Spain?
Blaise: Mentally we were ready to defend as a team, to stop their play. We knew if we could keep the cleansheet as long as possible, anything could happen. That was our job defensively and offensively we could cause them problems on the counter attack. Of course you need luck but you have to provoke it by creating possibilities to score goals.
Q: When during the match did you start to realize that winning was in sight?
Blaise: I started to realize and to believe in second half. Personally I was better in the game when the game started to stretch. When we had more space and if we get an opportunity with the counter attack we could score. After going 1 up I had the feeling the win was possible. Especially since Spain could not score in this game.
Q: What was your reaction when Gelson Fernandes scored?
Blaise: I was so happy but I kept my concentration. I knew that the hard job was about to start. Until the end we should have the courage to play and defend. And we did.
Q: What was your reaction when the final whistle blew?
Blaise: A relief. We worked so hard. Also I was proud to beat Spain, the favorite of the tournament. It is a big performance individually and collectively. There was so much pressure but we stayed in the game and we won, nobody expected this win except us.
Q: What does this do for your team’s confidence going into your next match on Monday against Chile?
Blaise: After this win we are in great situation. It is up to us. We have to keep our feet on the ground because if we don’t win anything, we are not on to the next round. Chile is a strong opponent. They finished second in World Cup qualification just behind Brazil, so we expect a difficult match. We have to perform like we did against Spain - even better if we want the 3 points.
Q: What does this mean back home in Switzerland?
Blaise: This win means a lot of emotion, joy and pride – it’s a dream. In Switzerland you have different communities - Portuguese, French, Spanish and Italian. This time the Swiss population can really celebrate because they won her first match and they lead their group. It is big and historic. The expectation grows up but we will keep our feet on the ground once again.
Q: Any messages you would like to send Sounders FC fans?
Blaise: Thank you for welcoming me as a Sounders player. I hope to fulfill the expectations with their help. I am excited to join the club.
Nkufo is set to join the Sounders FC at the conclusion of the World Cup. He is eligible to play as soon as July 15, when the Sounders play a nationally televised game against DC United at RFK Stadium.