Ukraine are through to the last eight after a penalty shootout victory over Switzerland.
A match which began brightly, petered out after the interval as both teams seemed incapable or unwilling to take the risk required to settle the match in their favour.
It came as no real surprise that the encounter had to be settled by penalties, and it was not a huge shock that Switzerland missed each of their spot-kicks.
Switzerland looked lively from the off, Hakan Yakin bringing the first save of the game with a long range effort that was saved comfortably by Shovkovskiy. The Ukrainian keeper was called into action shortly afterwards to deny a fine effort from Wicky.
It wasn’t one way traffic though and on 20 minutes Shevchenko came close to giving The Ukraine the lead with a diving header from a Kalinichenko free-kick that bounced off the ground and hit the crossbar.
Switzerland had their own piece of bad luck moments later when Alexander Frei struck a wonderful free-kick that cannoned back off the underside of the bar, with Shovkovskiy stranded. On such slender margins are World Cup matches determined.
It was an open, entertaining match with Ukraine looking a much more potent team than in their previous match, while the youthful Swiss side continued to impress with the pace of their attacking sorties. The flow of the game was helped by a referee who displayed a refreshing attitude in allowing advantage to be played whenever possible, and who resisted the temptation to produce a yellow card in the early stages.
The referee’s laissez faire attitude was commendable, although his decision to overlook Cabanas’ two-footed assault on Nesmachniy early in the second half, was fortunate for the Swiss player. A less tolerant official may have been reaching for a red card let alone a yellow.
The pace of the game slowed in the second half and the longer the game remained goalless, the more both teams appeared to be concerned by the prospect of losing it rather than actually trying to win it. Such is the conundrum that afflicts so many knockout matches in the major tournaments.
Midway through the half, Shevchenko gave a reminder of his enduring quality when he advanced on the Swiss area, cut inside one defender and unleashed a fierce drive that flashed just past the post. Gusin also came close to opening the scoring for The Ukraine when he out jumped the his marker and glanced a Kalinichenko corner just wide of the far post.
With five minutes remaining Voronin had a good claim for a penalty turned down. The striker controlled the ball on his chest and appeared to be held back by a combination of Grichting and Magnin, but the referee waved play on, much to the dismay of the Ukrainian.
It was the last moment of note in what was a disappointing second half. Switzerland had illustrated why their defence had not been breached thus far in the competition, while Ukraine had confirmed that as an attacking force they were over reliant on their talisman Shevchenko.
With the prospect of penalties looming there appeared to be more urgency in extra time, especially from the Swiss. Vogel, who had barely left his own half in the preceding 45 minutes, popped up on the edge of the Ukrainian penalty area and fired a shot straight at Shovkovskiy.
However, other than a wonderful block by Gusin to deny Streller, the spirit of adventure was in short supply and for the remainder of extra time both teams retreated into their shells, seemingly content for the match to be settled by the lottery of penalties.
Both Shevchenko and Streller missed the opening penalties for their respective sides, but Milevskiy cheekily dinked his effort past Zuberbuhler, before Barnetta hit the bar for the Swiss. Rebrov then sent the keeper the wrong way but Cabanas’ effort was saved by Shovkovskiy, leaving Gusev to win the match for The Ukraine and earn a quarter-final clash with Italy.
Switzerland: Zuberbuhler, Djourou, Magnin, Muller, Philipp Degen, Vogel, Cabanas, Wicky, Barnetta, Yakin, Frei.
Subs used: Grichting 33 (for Djourou), Streller 64 (for Yakin), Lustrinelli 116 (for Frei).
Bookings: Barnetta 59
Ukraine: Shovkovskiy, Vashchuk, Nesmachniy, Tymoschuk, Shelayev, Gusev, Gusin, Kalinichenko, Voronin, Vorobey, Shevchenko.
Subs used: Rotan 75 (for Kalinichenko), Rebrov 93 (for Vorobey), Milevskiy 110 (for Voronin).
Referee: Benito Archundia Tellez (Mexico).