Brasilia, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Haris Seferovic netted a late winner at the Estadio Nacional on Sunday to lift Switzerland to a dramatic 2-1 victory over Ecuador.
The two nations were expected to challenge for the runner-up position (behind group-favorite France) in Group E, but after Enner Valencia and Admir Mehmedi exchanged goals, it appeared as though they would be forced to share the spoils.
But Seferovic popped up with a late goal to hand Switzerland a vital win and lift the European nation to an early lead in the group.
Switzerland was slow out of the gate and Ecuador made Hitzfeld's men pay by opening the scoring in the 22nd minute from a set-piece opportunity.
Walter Ayovi delivered a delicious cross to the top of the six-yard box where an unmarked Valencia was waiting to nod a shot past Diego Benaglio.
The Swiss emerged from the halftime interval and leveled the score within three minutes of the restart, also making the most of a dead-ball situation.
Ricardo Rodriguez pumped a dangerous corner kick into the box to draw goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez off his line, and Mehmedi took advantage by heading a shot into the back of the net.
The goal helped the Swiss settle into the match, but they were still rather sloppy in attack.
They thought they had taken the lead in the 70th minute when Rodriguez's threaded pass fell to Josip Drmic, who then slotted a shot past Dominguez, but the assistant referee raised his flag to signal that the Swiss striker was offside and the goal was disallowed.
Three minutes later, Switzerland created a tremendous scoring opportunity by generating a three-on-one situation. Mehmedi advanced the ball from a central position and slipped a pass into the path of Xherdan Shaqiri, but the delivery was too heavy and the Bayern Munich winger could only whip his shot into the side netting and out for a goal kick.
Ecuador nearly notched a fortuitous goal in the 86th minute when Michael Arroyo's free kick took a wicked deflection to wrong-foot Benaglio, but the Swiss goalkeeper was able to recover and smother the loose ball.
Play exploded with end-to-end action in the final minute of stoppage time, and the Swiss turned out to be the beneficiaries.
Valon Behrami quelled a late scoring opportunity for Ecuador by committing a game-saving tackle in his own penalty area.
The Napoli man got up and proceeded to run half of the pitch before finding Rodriguez on the left flank. Rodriguez then delivered an inch-perfect cross in front of goal for Seferovic to tuck home the winner from close range.