Nicknamed ‘La Nati’ by their home fans, the Swiss team will be up against favourites Brazil, the unpredictable Costa Rica and Serbia in Group E in the upcoming FIFA World Cup scheduled to be held in Russia from June 14. After finishing behind Portugal on goal difference in Group B in the World Cup qualifiers, they faced a stern test against Northern Ireland for the two-legged playoff which they went on to win in a controversial manner, securing a 1-0 win thanks to a penalty awarded because of an opposition handball. The Swiss scored a total of 23 goals and conceded just 7 in a pool consisting of weaker teams like Hungary, Faroe Islands, Latvia and Andorra and the team will certainly be up for a tougher battle when they face high-mettle opponents in Russia.
● Squad Analysis :
○ Goalkeeping : The Swiss’ goalkeeping department is very experienced and boasts the likes of Dortmund’s Roman Buerki, RB Leipzig’s Yvon Mvogo and Monchengladbach shot-stopper Yann Sommer up their ranks. It is most likely that Sommer will be taking the charge between the sticks for the upcoming tournament while the inclusion of Buerki in the starting line-up won’t surprise anyone as the later has just returned following an impressive season at his club.
○ Defence : Conceding just seven times in the qualifying stages, the Swiss defence is heavily dependent on their captain Stephan Lichtsteiner and AC Milan left-back Ricardo Rodriguez. The former recently joined Arsenal on a free transfer which also became new Gunner’s boss Unai Emery’s first acquisition at the club. The central defence will be taken care of predominantly by Monchengladbach defender Nico Elvedi, Dortmund sensation Manuel Akanji, ex-Arsenal man Johan Djourou and Deportivo La Coruna’s Fabian Schaer giving the Swiss manager Vladimir Petković ample options to find the right fit at the back.
○ Midfield : Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri will be the key men in the centre of the park for the team in red as their creativity with the ball will hold the key in most of the forward attacks against the tough opponents given they’ll be up against the formidable Brazil and Costa Rican side. Udinese midfielder Valon Behrami along with the likes of Monchengladbach prodigy Denis Zakaria and Atalanta playmaker Remo Freuler will be the main pivots holding the incoming attacks while Blerim Džemaili, Gelson Fernandes and Steven Zuber will look to provide other midfield options to the coach.
○Offence : The attack is certainly a sector to ponder on for the Swiss as they lack a quality forward and have Benfica frontman Haris Seferovic, Dinamo Zagreb’s Mario Gavranovic, Monchengladbach striker Josip Drmic and Schalke sensation Breel Embolo at their dispose, all of whom have not yet shone at the highest stage just yet. Seferovic is most likely to start in most of the group-stage matches while a lot of clubs will have their eyes on talented Embolo who has shown great promise during his years at Basel and now at Schalke.
● Probable Line-up And Formation :
Stephan Lichtsteiner, Fabian Schaer, Manuel Akanji, Ricardo Rodriguez;
Valon Behrami, Granit Xhaka; Xherdan Shaqiri, Remo Freuler, Breel Embolo;
● Team Ratings :
○ Goalkeeping- 7/10
○ Defence- 7/10
○ Midfield- 7/10
○ Offence- 6/10
○ Overall- 6.75/10
○ Brazil vs Switzerland – Sunday 17 June
○ Serbia vs Switzerland – Friday 22 June
○ Switzerland vs Costa Rica – Wednesday 27 June
● Past Records :
○ Qualified 11 times (1934, 1938, 1950, 1954*, 1962, 1966, 1994, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018)
○ Reached Quarter-final last season where they lost to the Dutch in a penalty shootout.
● Recent Form :
In the recent warm-up matches, Switzerland played strikingly well, having pulled off a 1-1 draw against a strong Spain side and then defeating Japan 2-0 in their last practise match before the big showdown in Russia. It now remains to be seen if they can continue their good run against Brazil in their opener at the Rostov Arena next week.
● Coach’s Quotes :
The Swiss have started playing more attacking and free-flowing football under their manager Vladimir Petkovic who has instilled immense improvement into the team on their way to Russia throughout the qualifying stages making his team one to look out for and certainly not to be taken casually. In a recent press conference, the Yugoslavian says, “We’ve grown a lot as a team, we can act but we can also react during a game.”, highlighting that the 2018 squad had the makings of “a great team.”
● Writer’s Take :
Given they’ll be all pumped up following their good warm-up sessions against the Spanish and the Japanese sides, they’ll be needing more of that for their group opener against Brazil on 17th June. While Brazil look to be the clear favourites to top the group, they must maintain the consistency and believe in themselves to clinch the second spot and qualify further, though getting past Serbia and Costa Rica wouldn’t be a cakewalk for sure.