Switzerland will take on Spain in the first quarterfinal of the ongoing Euro 2020 tournament at the Krestovsky Stadium in St. Petersburg on Friday.
With all four semi-finalists of the 2016 edition of the European championships eliminated from the tournament, the competition has entered an exciting phase with an unlikely winner still in the offering.
Four giants in Belgium, England, Italy, and Spain go head-to-head with four minnows in Czech Republic, Denmark, Switzerland, and Ukraine for a spot in the semis.
Switzerland have proven to be giant-killers after they defeated world champions France in the round of 16, while Spain have been on a goalscoring spree in the past two games.
Ahead of a promising weekend of quarterfinals, here’s our preview of the first quarterfinal fixture between Spain and Switzerland:
Spain entered the tournament as favourites of Group E but could only scrape through to the knockout rounds with underwhelming performances against Sweden and Poland.
A 5-0 victory over Slovakia saw them finish second in the group. The former World champions truly came to their form in the round of 16 fixture against Croatia, where they overcame the 2018 World Cup finalists 5-3 in extra time.
After being accused of playing defensive football in the first two fixtures, Luis Enrique tweaked his approach and the 10 goals to their tally show that the tweaks have bore fruit. But that approach came with significant weakness in the defensive setup as Croatia’s three goals revealed.
Luis Enrique’s decision to leave several high-profile players out of the squad in order to build a more cohesive outfit was called into question many times so far and a victory in the quarterfinals will put that criticism to rest. With passing accuracy nearing 90% and possession of 67.5%, Spain have been able to control the flow of all their fixtures in the tournament.
Alvaro Morata and Ferran Torres will be the key to Spain’s fortunes on Friday as scoring early will give a decisive advantage in the fixture. David de Gea and Jose Luis Gaya might miss the fixture due to injuries but they might recover just in time for the crucial fixture.
Switzerland’s 3-3 (5-4 pen.) win against World Champions France was their first knockout round victory in an international tournament since 1938.
Yann Sommer’s heroic save of Kylian Mbappe’s strike created the greatest high of the nation’s footballing history and the Swiss will be keen to extend their fairy tale run with another strong performance against the Spaniards.
Switzerland’s dream run has been mainly due to the aggressive tactics that they have adopted under Vladimir Petkovic. After failing to score more than twice in the history of the tournament, the Swiss have scored three goals in their last two encounters – the last one against one of the best defensive units in the world.
Haris Seferovic has been the star for Switzerland since the Benfica star has scored thrice for the team, including the crucial two goals in the fixture against France. Mario Gavranović and Breel Embolo have also shined for the team and the trio will be crucial for the team’s chances against Spain.
Switzerland’s chances might get affected as their captain Granit Xhaka is under suspension, but the team has sufficient depth to fill his absence.
HEAD TO HEAD
Given the relative contrast in the footballing strength of both nations, it is no surprise that the Spaniards dominate the historic head-to-head comparisons.
Spain and Switzerland faced off in 22 encounters so far, with La Roja winning outright 16 times and losing just one.
Vladimir Petkovic’s men, however, have managed to draw two of the last three fixtures between both sides and they will be looking to push the game deep into the night and hope to produce another miracle in penalties.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Switzerland have narrowly qualified to the knockout rounds and Vladimir Petkovic’s men have already made history by their dominating performance against France, but Spain are no minnows and Luis Enrique’s men are adept at playing under pressure.
There will likely be a strong contrast in strategies – with Vladimir Petkovic wanting to push the game deep into the night while Luis Enrique looking to score early and seal the deal.
While nothing short of a victory will satisfy Spain, a strong performance is enough for the Swiss to leave the tournament with heads held high.
While Spaniards are the big favourites to win the game, we do not rule out another surprise victory for Switzerland.
Spain Predicted XI: Unai Simón, Azpilicueta, Eric García, Laporte, Alba, Koke, Busquets, Pedri, Sarabia, Morata, Ferran Torres
Switzerland Predicted XI: Sommer, Elvedi, Akanji, Rodríguez, Widmer, Freuler, Zakaria, Zuber, Shaqiri, Embolo, Seferović
When: Friday, 2 July 2021, 9:30 PM IST
Where: Krestovsky Stadium, St Petersburg.
Where to Watch: All Euro 2020 Matches will be streamed live on Sony Six HD and Sony Liv app.
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