Switzerland finished a distant second to England in qualifying, but after taking Argentina to extra time at the last World Cup, the Nati look primed for their best ever European Championship showing... though to be fair, that won’t take much.
Lesson from qualifying
Spread the load. The Swiss might lack a top striker but they shared scoring duties in qualifying – 14 players found the net.
Experience: most of their regulars play in the top flight in England, Germany or Italy. Two great full-backs – Juventus’ Stephan Lichtsteiner and Wolfsburg’s highly coveted Ricardo Rodriguez – help a strong backline, while a midfield led by Xherdan Shaqiri supports teenage talent Breel Embolo.
Only two teams netted more goals than Switzerland’s 24 in qualifying, but nearly half of those came against San Marino and the Swiss failed to score on three occasions. Goals may be hard to come by in France.
Most likely to...
Be mistaken for the national team from a Balkan country, given the preponderance of players on the Swiss roster with family ties to the region.
Least likely to…
Have one of their players take home the Golden Boot. The Swiss have scored just five goals in nine previous Euros matches.
What they hope will happen
That they finish somewhere other than last in Group A, following three first-round flops.
What will happen
Reach the last eight, where Spain get their revenge for defeat at the 2010 World Cup.
Key player - Xherdan Shaqiri
Magical ball skills and a non-stop engine make Shaqiri key to Swiss hopes. ‘The Alpine Messi’ has struggled at times since his 2015 transfer to Stoke, but he kept Switzerland ticking along with four goals in qualifying and is also the set-up man, tallying five assists en route to France.
Manager - Vladimir Petkovic
The Bosnia-born 52-year-old succeeded Ottmar Hitzfeld after the 2014 World Cup, following 15 years of coaching in Switzerland and a 2013 Coppa Italia win with Lazio.
Q&A - Yann Sommer
What are this Switzerland side’s strengths and weaknesses?
[Laughs] I’ll never tell you our weaknesses! Our most important strength is our team spirit. We’re only a small country – we’re not France or Spain – so we have to show strength as a group.
What do you think of Group A?
Our first objective is to get past the group stage, then after that, we’ll see. It’s important to remember that we play Albania and Romania before we play France. We want to take points from those two games, even though they won’t be easy: both of those teams are very good defensively. Of course we want to get points against France, too, but if we play well in the first two games, the job will already be done.
How special will it be to play at this tournament in France?
It’s a dream come true. It will be my first tournament as the team’s No.1. I was in Brazil for the World Cup as well, but as backup. As a kid I looked up to Gianluigi Buffon, and then last year I met him in the Champions League – I changed shirts with him. He’s still my idol.
Fixtures and results
June 11, Albania - Lens, 9pm
June 15, Romania - Paris, Midnight
June 19, France - Lille, 3am
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Group E runners-up
vs England (H) 0-2
vs Slovenia (A) 0-1
vs San Marino (A) 4-0
vs Lithuania (H) 4-0
vs Estonia (H) 3-0
vs Lithuania (A) 2-1
vs Slovenia (H) 3-2
vs England (A) 0-2
vs San Marino (H) 7-0
vs Estonia (A) 1-0
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP RECORD
1996 Group stage
2004 Group stage
2008 Group stage
Words Matthew Walthert; Interview Emanuele Giulianelli
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