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Blaise Nkufo helps lead Switzerland to upset of Spain

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Blaise Nkufo of Switzerland is tackled by Carles Puyol of Spain during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group H match between Spain and Switzerland at Durban Stadium on June 16, 2010.
Blaise Nkufo of Switzerland is tackled by Carles Puyol of Spain during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group H match between Spain and Switzerland at Durban Stadium on June 16, 2010.

Sounders fans certainly saw a lot to like in Switzerland's 1-0 victory over Spain in what was this World Cup's first big upset.

While the result itself was surely frustrating to many of us -- mainly because we saw Spain afflicted by similar maladies as our MLS side -- we were given a tantalizing preview of what Blaise Nkufo brings to the pitch.

The Swiss striker only registered one shot -- off target, at that -- but he was an instrumental part in the match's lone goal, while also providing plenty of other support in areas that don't really show up on match sheets.

On the goal, Nkufo made the kind of play Sounders fans have been looking for from their forwards all season. Coming off a goal kick, Nkufo controlled the ball from about 40 yards out. He then pivoted and sent the ball to a streaking Eren Derdiyok, who was able to break free of the Spain defense. Derdiyok never was able to control the pass, but was close enough to it that Spain keeper Iker Casillas was forced to come way off his line to make a play.

The ball ultimately ended up bouncing free and Switzerland's Gelson Fernandes was able to score the tournament's most shocking goal.

That was certainly the highlight of Nkufo's game, but it was also indicative of his play throughout. Although the Swiss were outpossessed about 70-30, had only 480 touches and completed just 163 passes (both the second lowest totals of a winning World Cup side since 1966, according to ESPN), they proved effective at counter-strikes and made the best of the few opportunities they did get. On each of Switzerland's other two strong counter-strike scoring opportunities (one which ended with a struck post and the other which resulted in a shot just high of the crossbar) Nkufo made himself available on far-post runs. Both times he was positioned in a way that forced the defense to respect his run and would have been in prime scoring position if he had received the pass.

Nkufo's play was highlighted by numerous Twitter observers, notably Sports Illusrated's Grant Wahl ("Seattle Sounders got a good one in post-World Cup acquisition of #SUI forward Blaise Nkufo. Very effective in upset of #ESP."); Zonal_Marking ("Woow what a performance from the Swiss! Defence were obviously incredible but I thought Nkufo was the best player on the pitch."); and our own Arlo White ("Lovely play by Nkufo, well held up, neat pass inside, and he was screaming for it at the far stick. Like him, like him alot!").  

More Nkufo links from Sounder at Heart: ProfileMLS comparables