Switzerland’s run to the last 16 of Euro 2016 was their best effort at a European Championship finals but should they be setting their sights higher at Euro 2020?
Expect Entertainment When Swiss Are Involved
The Swiss won four of their last five games to seal top spot in Group D on the final match-day of the regular qualifying campaign and they are
80/1 to lift the trophy at Euro 2020.
However, their passage to the finals should have been far easier as they conceded three goals in the last six minutes to draw 3-3 with group rivals Denmark in March 2019.
Switzerland were famously eliminated from the 2006 World Cup without conceding a goal in four matches but, as that chaotic Denmark game suggests, the current Swiss crop are far less secure at the back.
They booked their place in the inaugural Nations League finals with an amazing 5-2 win over Belgium, having been 2-0 down early on, before a 3-1 semi-final defeat to Portugal.
And their most recent Nations League campaign featured three score draws with Spain and Germany, including a dramatic 3-3 draw against Die Mannschaft in Cologne.
Experienced Gaffer Hoping to Clear Last-16 Hurdle
Switzerland have plenty of experience in the dugout in the form of Sarajevo-born Vladimir Petkovic, who has been in charge of the side since 2014.
A clever tactician, the former Lazio boss guided Switzerland to the last 16 of the 2018 World Cup after draws with Brazil and Costa Rica and a 2-1 win over Serbia in Group E.
Both teams scored in all three of their group games but their last-16 clash with Sweden was a dour affair in which Swedish midfielder Emil Forsberg scored the only goal midway through the second half.
Liverpool Magic Man Can Inspire Teammates
Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka scored the goals in Switzerland’s 2-1 win over Serbia at the World Cup and both remain crucial figures for Petkovic’s side.
Shaqiri may only play a bit-part role for Liverpool but he is capable of moments of magic such as the brilliant overhead kick he scored against Poland at Euro 2016.
National team captain Xhaka’s improved form for Arsenal under Mikel Arteta is a boost to Switzerland’s chances and his midfield partnership with highly-rated Borussia Monchengladbach man Denis Zakaria should bring a nice balance to the 11.
Zakaria has been linked with moves to Bayern Munich and Manchester United and he is the perfect modern-day defensive midfielder, strong in the tackle, a good passer, and capable of going box-to-box.
The Swiss are also well off for centre-backs, hence Petkovic’s switch to a three-man defence, with Fabian Schar, Manuel Akanji and Nico Elvedi all playing at a high club level, while Gladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer is a safe pair of hands.
A lack of a top-class striker is a concern, however. Breel Embolo and Haris Seferovic have modest goalscoring records at international level, although Rangers striker Cedric Itten notched three times in his first four appearances for his country.
Swiss Need to Get on a Roll Early
Switzerland have been drawn in an intriguing Group A with Italy
5/9 favourites to make the most of home advantage by winning the section.
The Azzurri play all three of their matches in Rome while the Swiss play their first and third games in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.
Their campaign kicks off against an improving Wales side before the clash with Italy and a return to Baku to face Turkey.
Their opening game against the Welsh looks a key fixture as they will want to have a win on the board before they tackle a powerful Italy side.
However, doubts over Switzerland’s defensive solidity and striking options at the highest level mean it is hard to be enthusiastic about their chances of going deep into the tournament.
*All odds correct at time of writing