Another draw could see Vladimir Petkovic shown Swiss exit door
Sarajevo native has taken Switzerland to two championships since appointment in 2014
Vladimir Petkovic: ‘We had difficulties with late goals, yes, I can concede that.’ Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
The Swiss may well in crisis after a defeat on Saturday that once again featured the costly concession of late goals. But they were, to be fair, being terribly civil about it as they prepare for Tuesday night’s make or break game against Ireland.
Even a draw would leave Vladimir Petkovic and his players requiring favours from others if they are to qualify. And the fact they are already guaranteed a place in the Nations League playoffs didn’t seem to provide much comfort for a coach whose tendency to project confidence in relation to games against rivals may end up contributing to his downfall if his side does not beat Ireland.
The 56-year-old from Sarajevo has successfully taken Switzerland to two major championships since his appointment in 2014. The team emerged from the group stages on each occasion. None of his predecessors had a win rate to compare with his 62 per cent, but he heads into this game with little or no credit in the bank it seems with most locals expecting failure to qualify would result in the federation replacing him.
The problem is that expectations have grown considerably as a talented generation of players has developed together. But both of those trips to tournaments ultimately ended in disappointment, with Poland sending the Swiss home from France in the round of 16 on penalties and Sweden beating them in a dour game at the same stage in Russia last year.
The latter defeat against opponents widely considered beatable proved particularly damaging with the coach having to admit afterwards that he simply didn’t know why his players had lacked creative spark.
There has been a lingering sense since that perhaps he is not the man for the biggest occasion. And concern is also evident now that even on some of the lesser occasions his side has developed a knack for conceding costly late goals, something they have done on four occasions in this campaign.
“We had difficulties with late goals, yes, I can concede that,” he said at a press conference where the obvious subtext was the pressure he is under personally. “We did have difficulties in those games. I have to admit that. Especially up front; we weren’t decisive enough up front and we didn’t have any real presence so to speak. We have to work on that.”
He has certainly not been helped on the attacking side of things by the absence of Xherdan Shaqiri, the Liverpool striker who is injured now but absented himself last month to concentrate on his club career.
This remains a good group, though, that plays positive football and they are unbeaten in 14 home qualifiers. It is a record of which most managers would be extremely proud and yet a third draw in 15 may could spell the end for the former Young Boys and Lazio boss.