Euro 2016: Swiss credit rating looking good

Switzerland will fancy their chances of reaching knockout stages for the first time

With home support behind them and having been drawn with Albania, Romania and Switzerland, could France be considered favourites to win Euro 2016? Emmet Malone reports on Group A.

 

Prospects

Four years ago the Swiss were regarded as something of a coming thing but they have lost their way a little since with several players who were regarded as prospects not quite delivering in the way that might have been hoped. In qualifying, they performed respectably enough even if they left it late on occasion. But against England they were well beaten both home and away, a pretty decent indicator, it seems, that they do not have what it takes to seriously test any of the tournament’s better sides. In players like Monchengladbach’s Granit Xhaka, Stephan Lichtsteiner of Juventus and Stoke’s Xherdan Shaqiri they look a cut above anything in the Albanian or Romanian squads and that should put them in pole position for a top two spot. The question then is whether they can nick the advantage that comes with topping the group an avoiding a likely second round meeting with Poland or even Germany. Probably not.

How they qualified

The Swiss were blessed with quite a fortunate draw in their qualifying group with England being the only real big guns to compete with. Roy Hodgson’s side blazed a trail through their 10 games leaving Switzerland and Slovenia to scrap it out for second place. In the end they did so comfortably, despite losing to Slovenia. Five consecutive wins after that defeat ensured they would finish ahead of their nearest threat by a full five points. After missing out on Euro 2012, this will be the Swiss team’s first appearance since their joint hosting of the tournament with Austria in 2008.

Manager: Vladimir Petkovic

After a relatively undistinguished playing career the Bosnian-Croat began managing in Switzerland before receiving his first big break when he was appointed Lazio manager in 2012. The 52-year-old had quite an impact in Rome, leading his side to the Coppa Italia title in 2013. However, he left in somewhat acrimonious circumstances when Lazio president Claudio Lotito sacked him for entering talks with the Swiss FA. Petkovic took over as Switzerland manager in July 2014 and successfully guided them to Euro 2016 qualification in his first campaign.

Star man: Xherdan Shaqiri

After taking the less than ordinary career path of going from Bayern Munich to Inter Milan and then Stoke City, Shaqiri has perhaps not quite lived up to the hype in the Premier League, more often than not overshadowed by Bojan Krkic at the Brittania Stadium. The small but immensely strong winger makes up for a lack of pace with exquisite ball control and spear-like long range shots.

One to Watch: Breel Embolo

Cameroon-born Embolo has made a lightning quick start to his professional career with Basel, picking up three consecutive league titles before even turning 20. The 6 ‘ 1” striker has already made nine appearances for Switzerland and was the stand-out performer in their recent friendly loss to the Republic of Ireland. The 19-year-old is particularly good at holding the ball up and finding team-mates. In the past he has cited Mario Balotelli as an inspiration so take that as you will . . .

Final Squad

Goalkeepers: Roman Buerki (Borussia Dortmund), Marwin Hitz (Augsburg), Yann Sommer (Borussia Moenchengladbach).

Defenders: Johan Djourou (Hamburg SV), Nico Elvedi (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Michael Lang (FC Basel), Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus), Francois Moubandje (Toulouse), Ricardo Rodriguez (VfL Wolfsburg), Fabian Schaer (Hoffenheim), Steve Von Bergen (Young Boys)

Midfielders: Valon Behrami (Watford), Blerim Dzemaili (Genoa), Gelson Fernandes (Rennes), Fabian Frei (Mainz 05), Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City), Granit Xhaka (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Denis Zakaria (Young Boys)

Forwards: Eren Derdiyok (Kasimpasa), Breel Embolo (FC Basel), Admir Mehmedi (Bayer Leverkusen), Haris Seferovic (Eintracht Frankfurt), Shani Tarashaj (Grasshoppers)

What President Trump says...

“Trust me, I have no problems with the Swiss. Some of my favourite money is taken care of by the Swiss. Love the Swiss. Up the Swiss!”

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