Switzerland head into this summer’s European Championships looking to improve on a miserable record in the competition so far.
Rossocrociati have only graced the Euros on four previous occasions, first doing so in 1996 and missing just two of the following five editions (not including 2020). However, France 2016 represented the first time the Swiss have advanced beyond the group stages, reaching the round-of-16 before crashing out on penalties to Poland.
But Switzerland are a growing force in international football, as proven by their now-consistent appearances at major international tournaments and a run to the semi-finals of the inaugural Uefa Nations League in 2019.
So, what will Switzerland offer to this summer’s Euros, and what are their chances of going deep into the tournament?
The best players Switzerland will bring to Euro 2020
Goalkeeper: Yann Sommer
With Roman Burki out of the picture since 2018, Yann Sommer has taken exclusive control of the No.1 jersey for Switzerland. First choice for Borussia Monchengladbach since 2014, Sommer has become one of the best shot-stoppers in the Bundesliga over the past seven years. Sure, the 32-year-old can sometimes be erratic when it comes to claiming crosses and commanding his box, but there a few goalkeepers with better reflexes than Sommer in Europe’s top five leagues, while he has considerable ability with the ball at his feet which will provide Switzerland with a solid platform to build out from this summer.
Defender: Manuel Akanji
Speaking of building out from the back, few centre-backs do it better than Borussia Dortmund’s Manuel Akanji. The 25-year-old ranks fifth throughout the entire Bundesliga for passes completed this season (1,784), while his accuracy of 91.82% was the highest among any player to have completed more than 1,000. More importantly, Akanji is ambitious and progressive with the ball, completing the eighth-highest number of final-third passes (194) among centre-backs in the Bundesliga in 2020/21 so far.
The big caveat with Akanji is his defensive capability. While by no means a liability, the Dortmund man does have a tendency to lose concentration and find himself out of position at times, something that even Mats Hummels has not been able to drive out of him at club level. However, the Swiss should dominate possession against Turkey and Wales at the very least during the group stages this summer and, if that’s the case, Akanji will be the perfect starting point to their attacks, keeping the ball safe and quickly getting it to his teammates further forward.
Midfielder: Xherdan Shaqiri
While he’s found minutes hard to come by at Liverpool, Xherdan Shaqiri is still one of Switzerland’s most important players and a potential difference-maker for his nation this summer. The 29-year-old is joint-seventh on Switzerland’s all-time caps list with 89, while his 23 goals are only bettered by six players, none of whom have represented the country since 2011.
Once a forward, Shaqiri is more often found in central midfield nowadays, where he can use his dribbling and passing to commit centre-backs, knocking them off balance, while his low centre of gravity means he can turn out of trouble at a moment’s notice. Shaqiri scored the equaliser as Switzerland took Poland to penalties at Euro 2016 and, since then, he has found the net at the 2018 World Cup and in the 2018/19 Uefa Nations League. He’ll need to call upon that experience to lead the charge for Switzerland this summer.
Forward: Haris Seferovic
While not exactly clinical, Haris Seferovic’s explosiveness and ability with the ball at his feet more than make up for what he’s missing in the 18-yard box. Indeed, the four seasons in which he has broken 10 league goals at club level (including the current one) are the only times the now-Benfica man has managed more than five strikes in a single campaign, but he’s fast approaching 40 assists in league play alone across his career so far. Seferovic is a superb hold-up player, able to battle off defenders and lay the ball off to his fellow forwards and midfield runners. Those skills will be particularly important in getting the likes of Shaqiri and Breel Embolo into dangerous positions this summer, while Seferovic will also be expected to lead the Swiss press.
The manager: Vladimir Petkovic
An immensely experienced tactician having taken up management back in 1997, with spells at Lazio and Young Boys included during that time, Vladimir Petkovic has been in charge of Switzerland since July 2014.
During that time, the 57-year-old has guided Switzerland to consecutive round-of-16 appearances at the 2016 Euros and 2018 World Cup, while also guided them to fourth place in the inaugural Uefa Nations League, losing the third-place playoff on penalties to England after being knocked out in the semi-finals by eventual winners Portugal.
Speaking in November 2019 before the tournament was rearranged for this summer, Petkovic highlighted Italy as the clear favourite in Group A, while asserting that Switzerland will face a close battle with Turkey and Wales for progression as runners-up though, of course, there is also the possibility of getting through as a third-place team.
Still, Petkovic clearly has the know-how to get his side through the group stages of international tournaments. There is clear talent in this Switzerland squad and those two factors should work in synergy to navigate the group stage and, perhaps, turn Petkovic’s side into a dark horse in the knockout rounds.
Petkovic has heavily favoured close variants of 3-4-2-1 and 5-4-1 formations recently, transitioning between the two systems dependent upon whether Switzerland need to get numbers forward or stay compact and hard to break down.
Akanji and Gladbach’s Nico Elvedi can provide the Swiss with a technically gifted platform in possession at centre-back, either side of the defensively impressive Fabian Schar, while in front of them, a rigid central midfield partnership of Granit Xhaka and Remo Freuler can provide extra security both through the middle and in allowing wing-backs Ricardo Rodriguez and Kevin Mbabu freedom to fly forward.
As mentioned, Seferovic will operate as the target man through the middle, holding the ball up and providing space for the likes of Shaqiri, Embolo and Renato Steffen to wield their attacking might in the final third.
The form guide
Euro 2020 qualifying: WDDWLWWW
Switzerland finished top of what proved to be a very competitive qualifying Group D, losing just once and picking up 17 points from their eight games. Petkovic’s side finished a point above Denmark in the other automatic qualifying spot, while they were four ahead of the Republic of Ireland in third.
Recent fixtures: WWWWDLDL
Things weren’t quite been as positive for Switzerland after qualifying for the Euros, with their 3-0 victory over Ukraine in November (which didn’t come on the pitch) ending a seven-game winless run during which they lost four times and failed to once again advance to the Nations League finals. However, they have started World Cup qualifying well with two wins from two.
Switzerland’s Euro 2020 odds
Given a relatively favourable draw alongside Italy, Turkey and Wales, Switzerland are second-favourites to win Group A this summer at 9/2 according to Sky Bet. Petkovic’s side can also be backed at 4/7 to merely qualify for the knockout rounds. Unsurprisingly, Switzerland are much less fancied to go all the way and actually win the Euros outright with a price of 66/1, alongside Russia and Austria.
(Odds in this article are correct at the time of writing. 18+ only, BeGambleAware.org)