The much-awaited Euro 2020 tournament started with a bang on Friday night as Italy won a thumping 3-0 victory over Turkey. The second fixture of Group A between Wales and Switzerland saw an exciting contest between two equally matched sides fighting toe-to-toe for the upper hand until the final whistle. Breel Emboro and Kieffer Moore scored in the second half to produce a thrilling 1-1 draw at the Baku Olympic Stadium.
Here’s our tactical analysis of Wales vs Switzerland Group A fixture:
HOW THE MATCH PANNED OUT
Wales started the game on a confident note as caretaker-manager Robert Page shifted back to fielding a lead striker instead of persisting with his false nine tactics from the friendlies. Opting for a 4-1-4-1 formation with Kieffer Moore at the lead and Gareth Bale at the wing, their strategy revolved primarily around passing the ball to Bale.
Despite the 1-1 dull draw that the scoreline suggests, the Swiss dominated possession – they had more than three-fourths of possession throughout the first half. Ricardo Rodriguez and Granit Xhaka made regular forays into the Welsh-half, with their midfield being effortless at making long passes a regular affair.
Wales, however, were able to absorb the pressure effortlessly, playing deep and breaking up crucial buildups. It was Robert Page’s men who had the first serious effort at the goal when Robert Moore’s header was denied by an impressive save by Yann Sommer
Breel Embolo and Haris Seferovic had a quiet first half, but the duo produced an early scare in the second half as Seferovic failed to convert a pass from Embolo. Embolo had another shot at the goal two minutes later but was denied by Ward, but the Borussia forward quickly netted a header from the corner.
The goal only increased the desperation among Wales’ ranks for possession of the ball, which the Swiss continued to dominate. The Swiss had multiple chances throughout the second half, but could not capitalise on them, sometimes through unforced errors. Kieffer Moore, playing in his first-ever European Championships, was the saviour for Wales as he struck a classic goal from the box to bring Wales back into contention.
Gavranovic looked like he had fortune on his side as his very first touch of the ball was a header into the goal – and the Swiss would have been 2-1 up going into the night had it not been for the VAR.
HOW THEY PERFORMED
Robert Page’s men were able to absorb the pressure that an incessant Switzerland midfield had created, but their attacking strategy is still unclear. Excessively reliant on the personal capability of Gareth Bale, they are unable to support the Real Madrid winger effectively. Wales had nine shots to Switzerland’s 18, with just two of them on target. They failed to effectively utilise their setpieces, and their xG of 0.27 from open play shows how helpless they were against a formidable midfield.
But it will be Switzerland who will be ruing their missed chances – they managed to convert just one goal despite dominating possession for most of the game and having numerous chances at the goal. But Dreel Embolo’s performance will give them confidence – the forward took on the entire Welsh defence all alone at a point in the game. Granit Xhaka’s passing accuracy of 94.3% is undoubtedly the most important strength for the Swiss, allowing them to dominate possession.
Switzerland had an xG of 1.6 compared to Wales’ 0.44, and the final scoreline of 1-1 will stick out like a sore thumb for the Swiss if their other group results go against them.
The next Group A fixture is scheduled on Sunday, 20 June when Wales take on Italy and the Swiss will face an unpredictable Turkey. With the Azzurri being the clear favourites to top Group A, Wales and Switzerland are locked in a tight spot to secure the second spot to the knockouts. With a point each from the fixture, both sides will head to the hotel happy, but they have a tough road ahead of them.
Belgium will meet Russia later in the day, while England will take on Croatia tomorrow at the Wembley Stadium as Gareth Southgate’s men kick off another exciting international campaign.