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Switzerland seal Brazil spot with Albania win

Albania 1-2 Switzerland
Michael Lang's first international goal set Switzerland up for a victory that clinches progress as Group E winners with a game to spare.

Switzerland captain Gökhan Inler (centre) hugs goalscorer Michael Lang
Switzerland captain Gökhan Inler (centre) hugs goalscorer Michael Lang ©AFP

Xherdan Shaqiri and Michael Lang, on his competitive debut, scored as Switzerland secured a hard-fought win in Albania and, with it, a ticket to the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Shaqiri broke the deadlock just after half-time and Lang, whose only previous appearance came in an August friendly against Brazil, gave the visitors breathing space 12 minutes from time. A late Hamdi Salihi penalty halved the arrears but Switzerland held on for a victory that seals top spot in Group E.

Ottmar Hitzfeld's team were soon knocking on the door. Valentin Stocker hit the upright from close range and Granit Xhaka, one of several players in the Swiss squad with Albanian roots, hesitated too long after a nice counterattack. It was after the restart that the match really exploded to life, however.

Switzerland had goalkeeper Diego Benaglio to thank as he repelled a Valdet Rama shot and then, at the other end, Shaqiri fired in off the post. Albania responded well, and though Benaglio was up to the task, the departure of the dangerous Shaqiri with a thigh problem emboldened the hosts. Benaglio had to be at his best to rebuff a Salihi header.

A powerful drive by Ricardo Rodriguez parried by Albania keeper Etrit Berisha brought brief respite for Hitzfeld's side before Odise Roshi rattled the bar and Salihi failed to head the rebound into an empty net. As with the first goal, Switzerland struck immediately after a big reprieve, Lang reacting quickest to meet Gökhan Inler's cross.

Albania did find a way through a minute from time, Salihi converting from the spot after Benaglio had brought down Roshi. Switzerland were not to be denied, however.