By Brian Homewood
BRASILIA, June 15 (Reuters) - Three extraordinary minutes of stoppage-time encapsulated Switzerland's 2-1 win over Ecuador, providing a fitting finish to a hit-and-miss game that was absorbing and entertaining throughout despite a lack of finesse.
With the score at 1-1, Switzerland wasted a golden chance to counter-attack when Xherdan Shaqiri passed the ball 30 metres backwards, earning a chorus of boos around the stadium.
Almost immediately, Antonio Valencia burst down the right for Ecuador and centred for Michael Arroyo, but the substitute dallied too long over his shot and gave Valon Behrami the chance to make a saving tackle.
Behrami collected the ball, burst out of defence, was brought to the ground by a crunching tackle but, seeing the chance to break, got up and swept the ball out to his right to Granit Xhaka.
The previous 90 minutes were entertaining, intense and produced plenty of chances even if they lacked quality.
On paper, Switzerland were the more accomplished side, with most of their players based with top Bundesliga or Serie A clubs, while Ecuador were short on top-level experience.
But, as so often at the World Cup, that did not count for much and the two teams produced an evenly balanced match in which both looked to attack.
There was an absorbing duel between Switzerland right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner and Ecuador winger Jefferson Montero.
Montero turned about to be much more of a threat than Manchester United's Antonio Valencia, who made little overall impact.
There was an air of anticipation every time the Mexico-based Montero got the ball, but although he produced some nifty footwork, he was often let down by his final pass.
That was typical of the game and probably to be expected from two adventurous, relatively inexperienced, sides.
Even Behrami had been less than impressive for most of the game, losing possession on several occasions.
But the Kosovo-born player, who is playing in his third World Cup and was the villain four years ago when he was sent off in a 1-0 defeat to Chile, made amends with a piece of play that was hailed by Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld.
"I really enjoyed the move when Valon was fouled but then noticed there was a chance to counter-attack," said Hitzfeld. "It is always very important to use your intuition and make the most of those chances," added the German. (Editing by Mike Collett-White)