Everyone expected Italy to be the first team to qualify for the World Cup from Group C, but the European champions came in second and later were stopped in the Qualifying play-offs. The first to advance was Switzerland, who drew their matches with the Italians but received two more points from the other matches. Swiss football has been on the upswing lately, and the team will head to Qatar with high expectations, although realistically, even advancing from the Group Stage would be an achievement in itself.
How do they play?
Murat Yakin, who took the lead of the Swiss national team a year ago, set the focus on the defensive game and it worked like a charm. It took the opponents 5 official matches to unlock Switzerland’s powerful defense. The Swiss conceded only two goals throughout the Qualifiers, and even the big teams have not managed to score against them. For example, Portugal (1:0), Spain (2:1) and the Czech Republic (2:1) were consecutively defeated in the last Nations League matches. Yakin focuses on defense, but there is enough talent up front as well because the Swiss maintained possession on average 60 percent of the time during Qualifiers, playing forward passes between the opposition’s lines.
Why they can win?
The talk about Switzerland’s powerful defensive game is not a myth but rather based on hard facts. The backline is led by Ricardo Rodriguez, Fabian Schär and Manuel Akanji. The fact that they have a lot of players with leadership qualities also plays into Switzerland’s hand, as several men such as Rodriguez, Silvan Widmer and Granit Xhaka are the first or second captains of their respective clubs.
Why they can lose?
If there is a position that is weaker than the others, then perhaps it’s the attacker. Who will score the goals? In other positions, Switzerland can use players from world-class teams, but their main forwards come from Galatasaray (Haris Seferovic), Monaco (Breel Embolo) and Augsburg (Ruben Vargas).
The leading stars
Of course, a good defensive game relies on a strong goalkeeper, and there Switzerland has none other than Yann Sommer. Borussia Mönchengladbach’s goalie made as many as 19 saves in one game against Bayern Munich at the start of the season, which is an all-time Bundesliga record. But of course, it also helps when you have Manchester City or Arsenal’s main men like Manuel Akanji and Granit Xhaka in your team.
The fresh faces
Although Switzerland’s golden generation is already around 30 years old, talented young players are also starting to raise their heads. If the more experienced strikers can’t do their job, Murat Yakin can turn towards the youth, mainly to the 24-year-old Augsburg striker Ruben Vargas and Noah Okafor (22) from Salzburg. Both have already scored their first goals for the national team and are hungry for more.