More than other national ones Switzerland is seen as an ideal extension of the country it represents: boring, organized, without flair. The results also point in this direction: the Swiss have reached the round of 16 in the last three major competitions played, in Brazil in 2014, in France in 2016 and in Russia in 2018 as if they were really a watch. In qualifying for the European Championship she finished her group in first place ahead of Denmark, losing the direct match, but doing better than her direct rivals with the other opponents. In the first two qualifying matches in Qatar 2022 he overtook Bulgaria (3-1) and Finland (3-2) showing some flaws too many in defense, especially with the goalkeeper Sommer, but also an offensive brilliance not always present. In a balanced management and with few peaks, however, Switzerland has achieved one of the most surprising results of recent years: in the decisive match of the Nations League group they overcame Belgium with a 5-2 round, after being down 2-0 .
Apart from this victory, in a match in which Ricardo Rodriguez looked like Roberto Carlos and Seferovic Ronaldo the phenomenon, Switzerland is a very constant team and not very capable of going beyond its limits. However, they are also a team that loses little: in the last two years they have managed to draw twice with Germany (including a pyrotechnic 3-3) and once with Spain, in a game in which Ramos missed two penalties. On the sidelines of that match Luis Enrique identified Switzerland’s strong point: “it is one of the best organized national teams, precisely due to the long management of the same coach ».
Vladimir Petkovic has been on the Swiss bench since 2014. He speaks eight languages and is called The Doctor at home. His presence seems ideal at all levels to organize a national team that has within it many different souls and little talent. When Xhaka and Shaqiri made the “eagle gesture” after the victory against Serbia at the World Cup, it was a great job of diplomacy by the coach to mend the tear. Petkovic has been coaching the same group for 7 years and many of the players have grown up under him. Not surprisingly, Switzerland is one of those teams that are said to “play like a club”, with mechanisms in the construction of the game sent to memory and an ability to move the lines in a precise and compact way that can be a nightmare for the opponents. In a tournament that begins so close to the end of the season, it can be a great advantage to have a team that plays by heart, and it is no coincidence that there was no surprise in Petkovic’s call-ups.
On the field the team sides with a 3-4-1-2 sewn on some of the best players. Even without having the quality of the best European national teams, Switzerland is not a team that aims to destroy and start again, but knows how to modulate itself smoothly even within the same match. In the last friendly match against the United States he applied constant and very aggressive pressure, while against Spain he totally left the ball to the opponent (71-29 of ball possession). On that occasion, however, she managed to find the goal thanks to a ball action on the ground started by the goalkeeper and finalized with a large flat on the fly by Freuler.
This flexibility is also possible thanks to a deep squad and players with different characteristics. In defense he can count on the ability to manage the possession of Akanji, but also on the qualities in defending the area of Elvedi e Schär. Against teams that close, however, it can lower Ricardo Rodriguez on the line of the three central, to insert Ruben vargas on the left, one of the few unpredictable players with the ball at his feet. In midfield, next to the captain Jaca, Denis alternate Zakaria, perhaps the most interesting prospect of the team, and Remo Freuler, now at ease even in international contexts and who in the last matches with Switzerland has often been among the best in the field.
If, in short, the ability to have more interpreters and scores is the soul of this Switzerland, its fortunes still pass through Xherdan’s plays. Shaqiri. After a career spent playing the attacking winger, Petkovic moved him behind the two strikers, putting him at the center of the game and giving him great offensive responsibilities. The Liverpool player comes from a rather disappointing season, but if in his career he has never managed to confirm the flashes glimpsed here and there, he transforms into the national team, often proving decisive. In front of him play Embolo, electric tip and brought to sacrifice but who sees little of the door Seferovic, who after a life spent in the low labor of grind strikers, at Benfica he discovered a quite unexpected prolific streak.
The biggest limit of Switzerland it is precisely the lack of great talent in the various departments. In a tournament decided by a few episodes, moreover after an exhausting season like the last, having more players able to break the mold with pure class play can be decisive. In 2018 the qualification for the round of 16 came thanks to an absurd reverse goal by Shaqiri, who however the more time passes the more difficult it is to imagine him as the Atlas that carries the whole nation on his shoulders.
The challenge with Italy is the second in the group, often the decisive one for the ranking (even if passing the 4 best thirds there is hope for all). Switzerland could get there with the positive inertia of victory in the first with Wales and play a shrewd game to secure the passage of the round. For a generation of footballers that is rapidly approaching the waning phase of their careers, these European Championships can represent a unique opportunity. Rodriguez, Shaqiri, Xhaka, Akanji, all come from bad seasons and will want to use the Europeans to redeem themselves. “Our minimum goal is to qualify for the round of 16,” said Petkovic, but perhaps the time has come for Switzerland to try and do something better.