Switzerland kicked off their World Cup qualifying campaign with an impressive 3-1 victory over Bulgaria, thanks to a stunning hat trick from forward Mario Gavranovic. The 31-year-old was given his chance to shine in the absence of injured regulars Haris Seferovic and Breel Embolo, and he certainly took his opportunity with both hands.
Gavranovic, who plays his club football for Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb, had only scored two goals in his previous 23 appearances for Switzerland. However, he looked like a different player against Bulgaria, as he scored three goals in the space of just 18 minutes to give his side a comfortable victory.
Gavranovic’s first goal came in the 31st minute when he latched onto a through ball from Granit Xhaka and calmly slotted the ball past the Bulgarian goalkeeper. He doubled his tally just three minutes later when he got on the end of a cross from Xherdan Shaqiri and headed the ball into the net.
The hat trick was completed in the 49th minute when Gavranovic pounced on a loose ball in the box and fired it into the top corner. Bulgaria did manage to pull one back through Kiril Despodov in the 62nd minute, but it was too little too late, as Switzerland held on for the win.
Gavranovic’s hat trick was the first by a Switzerland player in a World Cup qualifying match since 2004, and it was a timely reminder of his abilities. With Seferovic and Embolo expected to return for the next match, Gavranovic may find himself back on the bench, but his performance against Bulgaria has certainly given his coach, Vladimir Petkovic, something to think about.
After the match, Gavranovic was understandably delighted with his performance. “I’m really happy with the three goals and the win,” he said. “It’s always special to score a hat trick, and to do it in a World Cup qualifying match makes it even more special.”
Gavranovic’s performance was also praised by his teammates, with Xhaka saying, “He deserved it. He’s a great player and a great guy. He showed today what he’s capable of, and we’re all really happy for him.”
Switzerland will now look to build on their impressive start when they take on Lithuania in their next World Cup qualifier. With Gavranovic, Seferovic, and Embolo all vying for a starting spot, Petkovic will have a selection headache, but it’s a problem that he will welcome after such an impressive performance from Gavranovic.
In conclusion, Mario Gavranovic’s stunning hat trick was the highlight of Switzerland’s 3-1 victory over Bulgaria in their World Cup qualifying match. The 31-year-old striker took his chance to shine in the absence of regulars Seferovic and Embolo, and he certainly made the most of his opportunity. With Switzerland set to face Lithuania in their next qualifier, Gavranovic’s performance has given his coach a welcome selection headache. If he can maintain this form, he could play a crucial role in Switzerland’s World Cup qualifying campaign.