With UEFA EURO 2020 postponed last year as a result of the pandemic, it's time to check in on our Group A opponents as preparations begin for the competition that will now take place this summer.
In the first of this three-part series, we take a look at Switzerland.
Cymru v Switzerland
- 12 June 2021
- Baku, Azerbaijan
Switzerland have enjoyed something of a footballing revival over the course of the last decade, reaching the knock-out stages of the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and 2018, in addition to qualifying for the round of 16 at EURO 2016. However, the nation last reached the quarter-final of a major tournament when they hosted the 1954 World Cup, but in manager Vladimir Petković, there is clear determination within the group to improve on their latest performances on the biggest stage.
Switzerland first qualified for the EURO finals in 1996, but failed to make it out of their group with two defeats and a draw from their three games. The same situation occurred in 2004 and 2008, although it was during the latter tournament that they claimed their first victory with a 2-0 victory over group winners Portugal in Basel, with Hakan Yakin scoring both goals.
Although the side failed to qualify for EURO 2012, Switzerland produced their best showing in the competition in 2016 as they progressed through the group stages for the first time as an opening day victory over Albania in Lens was followed by draws against Romania and host nation France. However, Petković's side were defeated on penalties by Poland at the knock-out stage after playing out a 1-1 draw in Saint-Étienne.
Tournament appearances: 4
Best finish: R16 (2016)
How they Qualified
Qualifying for EURO 2020 as the winners of Group D, Switzerland lost just one game during the course of the qualifying campaign as they were defeated 1-0 to Denmark in Copenhagen. However, with five victories from their eight games, Switzerland booked their place by finishing above Denmark in the final standings. Cedric Itten was their leading scorer in qualifying with three goals, although their 19 goals in the group were scored by 15 different players.
Narrowly avoiding relegation from UEFA Nations League A4 through a better head-to-head record against Ukraine, Switzerland only registered one victory in their six group games and it proved to be the crucial result. Having lost 2-1 to Ukraine in Lviv in the opening round of games, Switzerland avenged the defeat on the final day with a 3-0 win, but the result was awarded by default due to Ukraine being unable to complete the fixture through being quarantined. It was the only positive result achieved by Switzerland during 2020.
There is a bravery associated with Petković's team that encourages players to take control of situations with an emphasis on possession. While his tactical system remains flexible based on the opposition and player availability, there is rarely any change when it comes to playing with a back three.
Record v Cymru
Switzerland have won five of the seven meetings between the two nations, although Cymru won the most-recent fixture 2-0 in October 2011 when Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale scored the goals for the side managed by the late Gary Speed at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea. The first meeting was back in 1949 when Switzerland claimed a comfortable 4-0 win in Berne, but Cymru claimed revenge in May 1951 when Trevor Ford scored a brace at the Racecourse in Wrexham in a 3-2 victory.
Name: Vladimir Petković
As a midfielder, Petković played as a journeyman at various professional levels for clubs in both Yugoslavia and Switzerland, and began his coaching career with Swiss side Bellinzona in 1997. As a coach he came to prominence with Young Boys between 2008 and 2011, and in 2012, Petković was appointed manager of Italian giants Lazio. Winning the Coppa Italia in his first season at the club, Petković was appointed manager of Switzerland in 2014, and subsequently took the side to the knock-out stages of EURO 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.
One to Watch
Name: Granit Xhaka
Club: Arsenal (England)
Now in his fifth season with Arsenal following his 2016 move from Borussia Monchengladbach, Xhaka has made over 200 appearances for the London club as quickly closes in on a century of international appearances for Switzerland. A combative and often volatile figure in midfield, Xhaka suits the style of Petković's tactical approach as he looks for his side to win the ball and enjoy the majority of possession. Xhaka also qualified for Albania, but opted for Switzerland have progressed through the intermediate ranks, and he made his senior debut against England at Wembley Stadium in June 2011.