Swiss must improve mental strength against Ireland, says Petkovic
Concession of late goals becoming a frustrating recurring theme for Switzerland
Denmark forward Yussuf Poulsen scores the winning goal against Switzerland. Photograph: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty
Switzerland manager Vladimir Petkovic admits his side have some mental frailties to correct if their European Championship qualification quest is to reignite against the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday.
Despite being top seeds in the pool, the Swiss have yet to beat either of their rivals Denmark or Ireland in three meetings.
What’s more frustrating for the coach is the concession of late goals in each game, the latest on Saturday in Denmark inflicting a first defeat of the campaign.
Six minutes from full time, the Swiss defence were caught square from Christian Eriksen’s crossfield pass, which allowed Yussuf Poulsen sprint clear to seal a 1-0 victory.
They let a three-goal lead slip in the reverse fixture in March to end up with just a point, the same outcome in Dublin despite Fabian Schär putting them ahead with 16 minutes remaining.
Defeat leaves little room for error in their three remaining matches. They hold the advantage of facing the two lowest seeds, Georgia and Gibraltar, in the final double-header next month but want to rid their reputation of soft touches before that.
“Maybe towards the end of matches, there’s been a lack of mental strength,” said Petkovic of the pattern.
“It’s more in the head because we played well enough against Denmark to have won by a few goals.”
Schär outlined his frustrations, as he had done after David McGoldrick’s equaliser in Dublin in June.
“Conceding that goal was stupid and naive,” said the Newcastle United centre-back. “We just cannot concentrate 90 minutes.”
Ready for Ireland
Yann Sommer can testify to that failing but the goalkeeper doesn’t see it persisting against Ireland.
“We know what to expect from Ireland and will be ready for them,” said Sommer.
“Of course, Ireland have physical qualities and will try test us with crosses, corners and free-kicks but we are confident. Once there’s a similar performance to the one from Saturday, we will get the right result. It was crazy that we lost in Copenhagen.”
Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel was to the fore in the 1-0, producing a string of saves before and after Poulsen’s winner.
His father, Peter, had encouraging words for Sommer afterwards, predicting that the Swiss would join his native Denmark as the two qualifiers from to the pool for the Euros.
“Switzerland will win against Ireland,” said the former Manchester United custodian.
“I have seen Ireland play and they are so bad. Switzerland can take a lot of positives from their performance in Copenhagen.
“They have some really talented players. If they play like that against Ireland, the win will come.
“Kasper had a great game on Saturday but overall the Denmark team didn’t. Football can be difficult to understand sometimes.”