12 June – Wales (2pm GMT Baku Olympic Stadium)
16 June – Italy (8pm GMT Stadio Olympico)
20 June – Turkey (5pm GMT Baku Olympic Stadium)
Switzerland have a tough group and a dire record in international football. Vijay Rahaman asks if Vladimir Petkovic’s team have enough to write a new history…
Following a solid campaign at the World Cup in Russia, Switzerland will be hoping to at least maintain that performance at this summer’s European Championships. The Swiss qualified out of their group three years ago, including going unbeaten against Brazil, Costa Rica and Serbia. In their second round match, they gave a good account of themselves against Sweden. They dominated large portions of the clash and lost out by a single goal to the Scandinavians.
In their Euro qualifying campaign, they were grouped with Denmark, Ireland, Georgia and Gibraltar. It was not the most taxing group, but they still needed to be professional and get the job done. The Euro 2008 co-hosts went on to top the group, after finishing with five wins, two draws and just a sole defeat away to the Danes after conceding an 84th minute goal.
They have also taken that form to their World Cup qualifying campaign. Back to back victories away to Bulgaria and at home to Lithuania by a combined score of 4-1, have seen them solidly in second place behind Italy in group C.
They try as best to dominate possession as much as possible, consistently averaging close to 60% in recent matches. However, they are not averse to defending stoutly and looking to hit their opponents on the break. The speed of Breel Embolo could be crucial, but the Borussia Monchengladbach forward does not have a good goal record at international level.
The Swiss typically set-up in a 3-4-1-2 formation, with Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka pulling the strings from midfield supported by Atalanta’s Remo Frueler, as Vladimir Petkovic has deviated from the 4-2-3-1 he used to prefer. Further up front, Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri is the creative spark and Benfica’s Haris Seferovic the main goal threat.
Shaqiri’s lack of playing time at Anfield is something of a concern however, and he needs to be on form if Switzerland are going to escape the group stages. That much is within their capability but anything more – including winning a knockout fixture at a major tournament for the first time since 1938 – will come down to Switzerland’s key players stepping up when their team needs them the most.
Coach: Vladimir Petkovic – Since taking over the Swiss back in 2014, the Bosnian born manager has created a solid team with a high work ethic. In two qualifying campaigns, he not only got the team to the finals, but guided them to the knock-rounds both times.
Preferred XI: Sommer; Akanji, Elvedi, Rodriguez; Mbabu, Frueler, Xhaka, Zuber; Shaqiri; Serefovic, Embolo
The make-up of Petkovic’s back three may not be totally settled as Newcastle’s Fabian Schar could get the nod, but the shape seems sorted. Look for Xhaka to sit deep and Shaqiri to link midfield and attack.
Look out for: Granit Xhaka – It is not an understatement to say that how the midfielder goes, so does Switzerland. He keeps the ball moving, has the ability to pick out an incisive pass and is the team’s leader. He’s also been strongly linked with a move to Jose Mourinho’s Roma.
Switzerland Euro 2020 squad
Goalkeepers: Yvon Mvogo (PSV), Yann Sommer (Monchengladbach), Jonas Omlin (Montpellier)
Defenders: Manuel Akanji (Dortmund), Loris Benito (Bordeaux), Eray Comert (Basel), Nico Elvedi (Monchengladbach), Jordan Lotomba (Nice), Kevin Mbabu (Wolfsburg), Becir Omeragic (Zurich), Ricardo Rodriguez (Torino), Fabian Schar (Newcastle United), Silvan Widmer (Basel)
Midfielders: Christian Fassnacht (Young Boys), Edimilson Fernandes (Mainz), Remo Freuler (Atalanta), Admir Mehmedi (Wolfsburg), Xherdan Shaqiri (Liverpool), Djibril Sow (Frankfurt), Ruben Vargas (Augsburg), Granit Xhaka (Arsenal), Denis Zakaria (Monchengladbach), Steven Zuber (Frankfurt)
Forwards: Breel Embolo (Monchengladbach), Mario Gavranovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Haris Seferovic (Benfica)
…Italy P 57 W 7 D 22 L 28 F 68 A 107
…Turkey P 15 W 4 D 3 L 8 F 20
…Wales P 7 W 5 L 2 D 0 F 16 A 6
Top division: Swiss Super League
FIFA World Ranking: 13th
International honours: Silver medal at the 1924 Olympics
Most capped player: Heinz Hermann (118)
Leading international scorer: Alexander Frei (42)
Switzerland at the European Championships:
1960 – Did not enter
1964 – Did not qualify
1968 – Did not qualify
1972 – Did not qualify
1976 – Did not qualify
1980 – Did not qualify
1984 – Did not qualify
1988 – Did not qualify
1992 – Did not qualify
1996 – Group stage
2000 – Did not qualify
2004 – Group stage
2008 – Group stage
2012 – Did not qualify
2016 – Round of 16
1992, 2000 & 2012: Did not qualify
How they got to Euro 2020: Finished top of Group D, ahead of Denmark, the Republic of Ireland, Georgia and Gibraltar.