Football Features

Switzerland 2-0 Italy: Potential England opponents have playmakers and goal threats everywhere

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 19:00, 29 June 2024

Switzerland have reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2024 after eliminating defending champions Italy.

Murat Yakın’s men are the first nation through after winning 2-0 in Berlin this afternoon.

The result means Switzerland will make only their second-ever appearance in the last eight, following Euro 2020, when Spain beat them on penalties.

Italy manager Luciano Spalletti made six changes for this round of 16 showdown. However, one was forced upon him (Gianluca Mancini coming in for the suspended Riccardo Calafiori), but it made no difference as his side was second best.

It was a result built on getting off the blocks quickly. Switzerland thoroughly dominated the opening proceedings, with the red shirts predominantly camped in Italy’s half, and their possession was rewarded with a well-worked opening goal.

Rubén Vargas played a perfectly weighted low cross into the box, and Remo Freuler took a touch before slotting his effort past Gianluigi Donnarumma and into the bottom-left corner of the goal to put Switzerland ahead — the Paris Saint-Germain shot-stopper couldn’t save the Azzurri on this occasion — before half-time.

No sooner after returning from the break, Nicolò Fagioli, among those making their first starts of Euro 2024, gave the ball away, and Michel Aebischer fed Vargas, who found space on the edge of the Italian penalty area to send a superb, curling effort straight into the top corner past Donnarumma.

Vargas’s goal — timed at 45:27 — is the second-fastest ever scored in the second half of a UEFA European Championship match, after Marcel Coraș for Romania versus Germany at Euro 1984 (45:21).

As if that weren’t impressive enough, Vargas is the first Swiss player to score and assist in a knockout match of a major international tournament (since 1966 – World Cup and European Championship).

An ever-present player for Switzerland, the FC Augsburg winger is having a championship to remember. Only six players — including Kevin De Bruyne and Toni Kroos — have averaged more chances per 90 minutes than him.

Furthermore, in Freuler and Aebischer, Switzerland has had two players both score and assist at Euro 2020, as many Swiss players have done so across their previous five appearances at the UEFA European Championships combined (two). Freuler and Aebischer have also been directly involved in three goals each. Only Georgia’s Georges Mikautadze (4) has surpassed that so far.

This was also Switzerland’s first victory over Italy since May 1993 (1-0), ending a streak of 11 games without a win (six draws and five losses).

What makes them so fascinating is how they’ve scored on seven occasions in Germany this summer, with a different player responsible for each goal. If anything perfectly encapsulates the cohesive spirit Yakin has fostered, it’s this. They are not dependent on individual quality; instead, they combine each player’s strengths to form a stronger team. In this case, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Football is inherently a team sport. Switzerland’s strength lies in a lack of dependence on one individual, which enhances their ‘dark horse’ status at the championships. This further illustrates a well-constructed team under Yakin, who shows that managing an international team at the tournament level is not as difficult as some make it out to be.

Next up is a meeting with England or Slovakia in Düsseldorf next Saturday.

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