OSLO, Norway (AP) — Switzerland took a big step toward reaching the World Cup in Brazil, winning 2-0 at its closest challenger Norway in qualifying Tuesday.
Fabian Schaer headed in two goals from free kicks delivered by Gokhan Inler to extend an excellent run of results away from home for the unbeaten Swiss.
The Basel defender struck in the 12th and 51st minutes, after also scoring last Friday against Iceland in a 4-4 draw when the Swiss let a three-goal lead slip at home.
"We wanted to show a reaction after the match against Iceland. It went better than we hoped," Schaer told Swiss broadcaster RTS.
Switzerland leads Group E by five points from Iceland, which beat Albania 2-1 in Reykjavik. Slovenia won 2-0 in Cyprus to rise to third place, six points behind the Swiss.
Switzerland has two matches remaining next month, away to Albania and at home to Slovenia, to seal its third straight World Cup qualification.
It was Switzerland's third 2-0 away win, and its defense has not conceded in four games on its travels.
Schaer did double duty in attack in Oslo, connecting in identical fashion from six meters (yards) with captain Inler's inswinging crosses. The second goal was directed downward through the legs of Norway goalkeeper Rune Jarstein.
Jarstein saved his team two minutes later when Swiss winger Valentin Stocker broke clear but delayed, allowing the 'keeper to smother the shot.
The 21-year-old Schaer has scored three goals in three international matches after making his debut in a 1-0 win against Brazil in Bern last month.
Including friendlies, Switzerland is unbeaten in 12 games since May 2012, and is unbeaten away in two years since losing 2-0 to Wales in a European Championship qualifier.
Iceland trailed to a ninth-minute goal by Valoet Rama, but Birkir Bjarnason leveled five minutes later. The Sampdoria midfielder got the winner two minutes into the second half.
Slovenia, which played at the 2010 World Cup, kept its playoff chances alive through goals from Milivoje Novakovic in the 12th and Josip Ilicic in the 80th at last-place Cyprus.