Petkovic sticking with a tried and tested squad
EURO 2020 GROUP A
FIVE years after leaving Euro 2016 in the round of 16 without having lost a game and 15 years after being bundled out of the World Cup at the same stage without even conceding a goal, the Swiss are masters in the art of the honourable exit. A nation with no great historical pedigree have become serial qualifiers – they’ve missed out on just one of the last eight major finals – and under head coach Vladimir Petkovic they’ve trained on again. The Bosnian not only took them to the last 16 last time but repeated the feat at the World Cup in Russia two years later. Petkovic also led Switzerland to the inaugural Nations League finals, and oversaw a more than adequate qualifying campaign for this tournament in which they pipped Denmark for top spot. Petkovic is doing nothing radical, instead pinning his hopes on a group of players who have served him so well during his seven-year reign. He has tweaked his tactics – a three-man rearguard tends to be the bedrock of his formation and has replaced the 4-2-3-1 set-up at the World Cup where they drew with Brazil and beat Serbia – but the names will be familiar. Gladbach keeper Yann Sommer has been one of Europe’s most accomplished and underrated glovesmiths for a while, Fabian Schar and Ricardo Rodriguez two of several seasoned defenders to pick from, while skipper Granit Xhaka anchors the midfield. Xherdan Shaqiri is largely surplus to requirements at Anfield but is more treasured by Switzerland where he tends to play in the hole off a front two, one of whom will be Benfica’s Haris Seferovic, who has enjoyed a prolific campaign in the Primeira Liga. These names reek “reliable” – it’s a spark from the likes of Ruben Vargas or the frustrating Breel Embolo which may determine if Switzerland could go deep.