DURBAN, South Africa -
That indefinable but unmistakable roar, the emotionally charged fission which signifies the slaying of a giant, reverberated around the Moses Mabhida Stadium at the final whistle.
Swiss hero Gelson Fernandes sank to his knees and pointed gratefully to the heavens as he scored the lone goal on Wednesday at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, giving Switzerland a huge 1-0 upset over heavily favoured Spain.
In the stands, men and women wrapped in Swiss flags danced and kissed and clanged Swiss cowbells as if awakening neighbours to a four-alarm fire.
Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas, disconsolate, walked slowly from the pitch but still stopped to offer conquering coach Ottmar Hitzfeld a light pat of congratulations on the cheek.
An incredible sight.
But oh, the pain in Spain.
"Today wasn't our day," said Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque objectively. "We have two games ahead of us. We have to find a way to win them."
From the funky clubs on las Ramblas to the elegant byways of Madrid to the winding cobblestone streets of Toledo and the Alhambra in Granada, the reaction will be one of shock, disbelief. Mighty Spain, the reigning European champions, beaten 1-0 by a country more renowned for its chocolate, peace-loving ways, watches and founding the Red Cross than its soccer.
The headline in the UK's Daily Mirror said it all: Tobler-Owned!
Statistically, the game wasn't close. Ball possession, 63 per cent to 37. Shots at goal, 25-6. Shots on goal, 8-3. Corners, 12-3. All, heavy advantage Spain.
But the Swiss, despite missing influential striker Alexander Frei and seeing key defender Philippe Senderos hobble off after only 16 minutes, defended with aplomb. They were under siege, yes, but showed no panic and no jangling nerves, particularly after assuming the shocking lead. It would've been easy to go to pieces under the relentless interrogation of the Spanish attack.
Not everyone was unduly impressed.
"They played a defensive game and tried to take advantage of any counter-attack and dead-ball situation,' said Del Bosque. "I feel it's an excessive prize for them considering the football they displayed . . . but they did play well in defence.'
Now, if Switzerland does its remaining business and bests both Honduras and Chile, the Spanish can anticipate a knockout match against their rivals and favourites in this tournament, Brazil.
That would come startlingly early, in the round of 16. And have only themselves to blame.
Spain had only won 27 of its 28 matches, the lone blemish a 2-0 loss to the U.S. at last summer's Confederations Cup here in South Africa. They'd gone unbeaten against European opposition in an astounding 37 games, 34 of those wins and 19 on the trot.
"As far as my memory will take me, this has to be counted as the biggest night in our country's football," said SWiss midfielder Benjamin Huggel. "I mean, what can you say, we beat the champions of Europe.'