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Serbia came into Friday's match against Switzerland needing a win to clinch a berth in the Round of 16, and for most of the match, it looked like that was exactly what would happen. But in the end, the Swiss proved too much to handle, as Switzerland came away with a 2-1 victory that puts them in great position to advance out of Group E.
Serbia came out as the more energetic side early and it resulted in an early goal when Aleksandar Mitrovic did what he does best, getting up into the air to put his head on a cross and redirect it into the back of the net.
The goal looked like it might be enough for Serbia to advance, as Switzerland just couldn't find any consistent play on the attack. Time after time Xherdan Shaqiri tried to find the right opening for a pass or a shot, and time after time Serbian took away any daylight there might have been.
That is, until early in the second half.
Shaqiri, to the right of goal near the edge of the box, attempted to get a shot off, but it was blocked. And it was a fortunate block for the Swiss as the ball ended up in the path of a streaking Granit Xhaka, who put his boot to the ball and fired a missile into the back of the net to tie things up in the 52nd minute.
From that moment on the Swiss seemed to take control of the play, but couldn't capitalize. One again Shaqiri found himself with the space to get a shot off from the right of the net, but his effort grazed the corner of the far post and crossbar, and it looked as though we were destined for a draw.
And again we were surprised when suddenly, out of nowhere, Shaqiri found himself in a situation where he was one-on-one with the goalkeeper, and there were no blocks or crossbars this time.
That was that, as the Swiss would hold on in added time to pick up three points and climb to the top of the group with Brazil.
As things currently sit Switzerland and Brazil both have four points, but Brazil is ahead on goal differential. Serbia goes from having a shot to clinch a spot in in the knockouts heading into the Switzerland match to being in third place with one match left against group-leading Brazil.
Serbia heads into the final matches of Group E play on Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET looking for a win, but they won't necessarily be eliminated with a draw. That would give the team four points, and if Switzerland loses to Costa Rica, advancing would come down to a tiebreaker between the Serbs and Swiss (with Brazil nabbing the top spot with five points). Switzerland will advance with at least a draw in their final group stage match, and they still have a great shot at winning the group outright.
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