An own goal by Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer on Bryan Ruiz’s penalty kick in the 93rd minute allowed Costa Rica to leave Russia with some pride and a point Wednesday as its 2-2 draw in Nizhny Novogorod allowed the European side to advance to the round of 16 from Group E at the World Cup.
The own goal was a cruel blemish on Sommer, who had done well in the first half to keep Swtizerland in the game when a Ticos side with nothing to play for poured forward in search of their first goal of the World Cup. Ruiz’s attempt cannoned off the crossbar and Sommer’s head before bouncing into the net.
Blerim Dzemaili and Josip Drmic scored on either side of halftime for Switzerland, which finished with five points and will play surprise Group E winner Sweden on Tuesday in St. Petersburg.
The result came with a steep price for coach Vladimir Petkovic, who will have to replace both talisman Stephan Lichtsteiner and Fabian Schar on the back line after both picked up their second yellow cards of the tournament.
It is the fourth time in Switzerland’s last five World Cup appearances it has reached the knockout round, but Die Nati have not been part of the last eight since serving as hosts in 1954.
For Costa Rica, a surprise 2014 quarterfinalist, the result was a consolation point after tough losses to both Serbia and Brazil as it finished last in the group. Kendall Waston scored the other goal for the Ticos, ending a 424-minute scoreless drought at the World Cup dating to Ruiz’s goal against Greece in the round of 16 four years ago.
It was Switzerland, though, who came out all sixes and sevens despite needing just a draw to advance. Sommer made a spectacular double save in the sixth minute, first stopping Joel Campbell’s attempt before pushing Celso Borges’ downward header off the left post with a diving effort.
The Ticos continued to buzz in Die Nati’s final third, with Daniel Colindres’ curling right-footed shot taken from just inside the penalty area on the left thumping the crossbar and bouncing down and away before being cleared in the 10th minute. Switzerland finally found its bearings as Mario Gavranovic put a 20-yard effort on goal that failed to challenge Navas in the 17th minute, but Sommer again came through with a tremendous save when asked, diving to his right to push Colindres’ low shot around the left post.
Swiss defender Manuel Akanji made a vital clearance on yet another attempt by Colindres, and then Die Nati took the lead against the run of play just after the half-hour. Lichtsteiner sent a cross from the right to the far post that Breel Embolo did well to head back into the middle, where Dzemaili slammed his shot from six yards into the net past an out-of-position Keylor Navas.
Lichtsteiner, though, would be booked in the 37th minute for a late challenge on Colindres. Switzerland, though, finally appeared it had weathered Costa Rica’s strong play and got to halftime without further incident.
After the restart, the teams traded chances, with Campbell slicing a volley wide and Embolo having a shot knocked away by Navas after being picked out by Xherdan Shaqiri on the right. The Ticos got their deserved equalizer through Waston’s header off an in-swinging corner by Campbell from the right as he rose up unmarked from six yards.
Drmic nearly gave Switzerland the lead in the 78th minute when his header hit the right woodwork squarely after a cross from Embolo. Costa Rica immediately countered as Campbell made an exhausting run in which he eluded three Swiss defenders before the ball found its way to Borges, who forced another quality save from Sommer.
Petkovic lifted Shaqiri on 81 minutes, making sure his playmaker also didn’t pick up a second yellow card that would have ruled him out of the next match. Schar, though, was not as judicious with his challenges, getting booked for pulling back Campbell two minutes later.
Lichtsteiner did well to clear a cross from a dangerous area near his own goal, and Die Nati struck on a quick counter to take a 2-1 lead two minutes from time. Ricardo Rodriguez shrugged off a challenge at midfield to play the ball to Denis Zakaria on the right, and Drmic cut inside a fallen Johnny Acosta to lash a volley from 12 yards past Navas.
Costa Rica was awarded a penalty in the 89th minute when Ruiz went down in the penalty area, but VAR correctly overturned the call since the Ticos forward was offsides on the play. Three minutes later, it was Campbell going down on the left side of the penalty area on a challenge from Zakaria, and that call by referee Clement Turpin stood.
Sommer knew nothing about Ruiz’s attempt while diving correctly to his left as the ball smacked the underside of the crossbar and then the back of his head as it pinged into the net.