Ex-Fiorentina striker Haris Seferovic scored with practically the last kick as Switzerland fought back to beat Ecuador 2-1.
This Group E was the first time these nations had ever met. Switzerland fielded three Serie A figures: Juventus full-back Stephan Lichtsteiner and Napoli teammates Valon Behrami and Gokhan Inler. Ecuador lost Segundo Castillo to injury on Monday and were still reeling from Christian Benitez’s death from heart failure. Cristhian Noboa shook off a knock to start.
Bayern Munich talent Xherdan Shaqiri was expected to provide the biggest attacking threat and he had the first shot on goal smothered after 16 minutes, soon followed by Ricardo Rodriguez.
However, it was Ecuador who took the lead with the first goal Switzerland have ever conceded in a World Cup from a free kick. Walter Ayovi whipped in a set piece from the left that found his Pachuca teammate Enner Valencia in acres of space for a free header from six yards.
Inler forced Alexander Dominguez into a fingertip save with one of his trademark long-range efforts, while Johan Djourou charged down a Jefferson Montero counter-attack.
Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld is retiring after the World Cup to make way for ex-Lazio boss Vladimir Petkovic, but he made an inspired substitution. Just three minutes into the restart, Freiburg striker Admir Mehmedi rose to nod in a Rodriguez corner, though goalkeeper Dominguez was all at sea.
Inler and Valencia strikes were just off target, while Benaglio got his gloves to a Montero effort. Drmic thought he had given Switzerland the lead on 70 minutes, but the offside flag was raised after a series of deflections. Replays show it was an incorrect decision, as the touch was off an Ecuadorian shin, but the linesman was fooled by a Xhaka dummy.
Moments later, Shaqiri hit the side-netting from a very promising position. Switzerland almost shot themselves in the foot when Benaglio sprinted out to clear and it struck the forward, but ex-Palermo defender Steve Von Bergen was there to clean up.
Benaglio needed a splendid reaction save on the Arroyo free kick, as it took a deflection off the defensive wall.
It was a dramatic end to the game, as everything happened in injury time. First Napoli midfielder Behrami performed a decisive tackle as Arroyo was pulling the trigger inside the box, then he sparked the counter-attack to win the game. Rodriguez pulled across for former Fiorentina striker Seferovic to blast under the bar from close range.
Switzerland 2-1 Ecuador
Scorers: E Valencia 22 (E), Mehmedi 48 (S), Seferovic 94 (S)
Switzerland: Benaglio; Lichtsteiner, Von Bergen, Djourou, Rodriguez; Inler, Behrami; Shaqiri, Xhaka, Stocker (Mehmedi 46); Drmic (Seferovic 75)
Ecuador: Dominguez; Paredes, Guagua, Erazo, W Ayovi; A Valencia, Gruezo, Noboa, Montero (Rojas 77); Caicedo (Arroyo 70), E Valencia
Ref: Irmatov (UZB)