Nizhniy Novgorod (Russia) (AFP) – Switzerland’s coach insisted he was right to field a full-strength side against Costa Rica, even though two experienced defenders will miss the last 16 clash against Sweden with bookings.
Captain Stephan Lichtsteiner and Fabian Schaer — who have almost 150 caps between them — are ruled out of the match on July 3 after both picked up a second yellow card for the tournament on Wednesday.
But coach Vladimir Petkovic said his main goal was to qualify for the knockout stage and worry about the repercussions afterwards.
“It’s the main objective (qualifying for the last 16), we had to make sure we delivered,” Petkovic told reporters after an entertaining 2-2 draw gave Switzerland the point they need to guarantee their progress at this World Cup.
The game saw a frenzied end with Switzerland twice taking the lead, the second time in the 88th minute, only for a 93rd minute own goal by unfortunate keeper Yann Sommer from a Bryan Ruiz penalty to make it end all square.
The Swiss qualified for the knockout stage with five points from three games and behind group winners Brazil.
“Before the game… I said this was a time when I wanted to field my best players,” he added.
“We have 23 players in our squad. It’s too bad for those two players but it’s too late to correct that.”
Heading into the game Switzerland had four key players on yellow cards.
As well as Lichtsteiner and Schaer, midfielder Valon Behrami and playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri were also at risk of a suspension.
Petkovic substituted Behrami and Shaqiri in the second half to avoid further absences for the Sweden game, which will be played in St Petersburg.
Lichtsteiner and Shaqiri had only narrowly avoided being suspended for the Costa Rica game because of their controversial “double eagle” celebrations in the win against Serbia.
The threat of a possible two-match suspension was lifted prior to the Costa Rica match and the players were fined instead.
Petkovic added that the game had proved difficult for his players to approach as all three results could have still seen them qualify for the last 16.
If Switzerland beat Sweden it will be the first time a Swiss side has qualified for the quarter-finals since 1954.
Petkovic would not be drawn on what he thought of his team’s next opponents, who also qualified for the last 16 on Wednesday, beating Mexico 3-0 to top Group F.
Costa Rica coach Oscar Ramirez said his team’s disappointing showing, the Swiss draw was their only point of the tournament, was just to their tough group.
“We have played against number two and number six in the FIFA rankings,” he said.