Seasoned veteran Ottmar Hitzfeld made two changes for his Switzerland side, and both substitutes scored as Haris Seferovic’s tap-in four minutes into added time gave the Swiss all three points in a crucial Group E match.
Ecuador scored first, a 22nd minute header for Enner Valencia, but the Swiss came back with a pair of second-half goals for the 2-1 win.
Switzerland started the most promising, and remained that way throughout the first half, but they could not find the back of the net.
The expected threats of Josip Drmic and Xherdan Shaqiri both had chances inside the first 20 minutes, but a good tackle from Jorge Guagua on Drmic and an easy save low by Alexander Dominguez kept them out.
Ecuador scored first, against the run of play, to stun the Swiss and set the tone for the first half. A free kick from the left edge by Walter Ayovi found his Pachuca teammate Enner Valencia wide open in the box, and he leaped high to finish with his head.
The Swiss were caught off guard, and as a result were timid going forward much of the rest of the first half.
But they found their legs during the break, and a halftime change paid dividends for Hitzfeld. Bringing on Admir Mehmedi for Valentin Stocker, Mehmedi struck from a set piece of his own.
A corner by Ricardo Rodriguez saw Mehmedi easily out-muscle Carlos Gruezo to nod the ball home from close range.
The match continued to be Swiss pressure followed by Ecuadorian counter, but both sides had chances. Switzerland had a brilliant chance when Josip Drmic put the ball into the back of the net, but the flag went up right away for offside – which replay showed was incorrect as Granit Xhaka let the ball go while Drmic was in the offside position.
The winner came in the 93rd minute, with end-to-end action resulting in Switzerland’s victory. Valon Behrami dispossesed substitute Michael Arroyo with a chance of his own in the box, and the Swiss pressed forward.
Gruezo tried to stop the break with a foul in the midfield, but he only got man and not the ball, and Behrami got up and continued on advantage by the referee. Rodriguez got the ball near the left corner flag, and he sent in a perfect cross to Seferovic making a near-post run, and the 75th-minute substitute tapped it in.
The points are crucial for Switzerland, who look to prove they are worthy of their seed and also put themselves into position alongside favorites France to advance from the group. For Ecuador, they will be devastated by the result, as they were clearly bright throughout the match but undone by their own game – a break at the death.
The win for Switzerland marks the fifth time already in this tournament that the team who concedes first has picked up a win. Meanwhile, not a single draw has been recorded so far in Brazil.
Switzerland – Benaglio; Lichtsteiner, Von Bergen, Rodriguez, Djourou; Xhaka, Behrami, Inler; Drmic (Seferovic 75′), Stocker (Mehmedi 45′), Shaqiri.
Goals: Mehmedi 48′, Seferovic 90+3′
Ecuador – Domínguez; Guagua, Erazo, Paredes, Ayovi; Noboa, Montero (Rojas 77′), Gurezo; A. Valencia, Caicedo (Arroyo 70′), E. Valencia.
Goals: E. Valencia 22′