Nations League Finals approaching: A look at Switzerland23 May 2019
When Thorgan Hazard scored his second of the night to put an extremely strong Belgium 2-0 up in Lucerne, any hope of the Swiss reaching the inaugural UEFA Nations League Finals seemed forlorn.
75 minutes later and they had turned the tables incredibly with a 5-2 victory that saw them top their qualifying table courtesy of a better head to head record against the Belgians.
Vladimir Petkovic’s side head to Portugal in the first week of June alongside fellow Group A winners The Netherlands, England and the Portuguese themselves.
Regularly punching a little above their weight and certainly unpredictable, Switzerland head into the mini – tournament as 8/1 outsiders and have drawn hosts Portugal in their semi final on June 5th.
A tough ask for the Swiss, who have made steady and consistent progress under Petkovic, reaching the last 16 stage of the 2016 European Championships and 2018 World Cup. They certainly have some talented players in the shape of Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri, striker Breel Embolo (Schalke) and marauding Milan left back Ricardo Rodriguez, but would be best described as a team unit that is better than the sum of its parts.
Shaqiri’s mercurial talent and the dead ball skills of Rodriguez are blended together with the industry and athleticism of Granit Xhaka (Arsenal), Harris Seferovic (Benfica) and long serving captain Stephan Lichtsteiner (Arsenal) to produce a hard working, physically strong team capable of troubling anyone on their day.
The bulk of the squad have been together for a long time now, so they’ll be hoping that familiarity and stability will stand them in good stead as they look to upset the applecart. It would be fair to say the Swiss will enter the showpiece as strong underdogs to most, a tag you feel they will use and thrive upon as their experienced squad aim to prove the bookmakers and experts wrong.
Don’t underestimate ‘the Rossocrociati’.
By Chris Kelly (@ccalciok)