An emphatic 6-0 win summed up a fantastic Switzerland performance, who have got off to the perfect start in the inaugural Nations League after emphatically beating Iceland in St. Gallen.
Switzerland dominated Iceland throughout the whole 90 minutes, with six different goal scorers on the night. The goals came from Zuber, Zakaria, Seferović, Ajeti, Mehmedi and a Bjarnason own goal. Zuber’s strike was perfect all round, Zakaria and Ajeti both scored their first ever goal for Switzerland, and Mehmedi deservedly scored after withdrawing himself from the Swiss World Cup squad due to injury.
In my match preview, I predicted a comfortable 2-0 win for the Swiss. However, I didn’t think it would be just this comfortable. They had matched my prediction in just twenty-two minutes, before adding four more goals in the second half. They were ruthless, efficient, wonderful; just a perfect start. The World Cup Round of 16 exit has been extinguished from the minds of all Swiss fans now, with nothing but optimism for the next three Nations League fixtures, as well as some international friendlies.
Iceland didn’t threaten at all, with very few chances or moments of magic; they clearly have a lot of work to do. It’s a shame to see their fall from grace continue, after a famous run to the Quarter-Finals of Euro 2016. It seems that that summer in France was the climax, and now it is just all going downhill.
There is something even more worrying for Iceland. They just lost 6-0 to a team who reached the World Cup Round of 16. Yet on Tuesday, they must face Belgium, the country who finished 3rd at the World Cup. Iceland conceded six to an attack consisting of Shaqiri, Embolo, Zuber and Seferović. One worrys how they will fare when they face an attack consisting of Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, Axel Witsel and Romelu Lukaku.
Their miserable year continues, having won just one of their nine games this year. This included a debut World Cup campaign that, although started with a historic 1-1 draw with Argentina, ended with two losses and a bottom-place finish. Erik Hamrén’s Iceland career has started woefully, and he needs to change something in order to change their fate in upcoming games.
I was shocked and annoyed to see that captain Stephan Lichtsteiner had not only been left out of the starting eleven, but from the substitutes as well. However, all was forgotten when I watched his replacement Kevin Mbabu play. The 23 year-old was making his first team debut, yet he fitted into Switzerland’s backline fantastically. He was confident going forward, extremely quick and solid in defence. If this is the man who will eventually take over Lichtsteiner’s right-back spot, then I am really looking forward to the future of the national team.
I have to talk about Haris Seferović. I have slandered him, criticised him, and called for him to be ejected from the squad in favour of other strikers. However today he was fantastic. He had a great chance just two minutes in, and had dozens of fantastic chances. He could’ve had a hat trick had his two well finished goals were correctly ruled out for offside. Nonetheless, it was great to see him get a goal, a tidy finish past Hannes Halldórsson.
Finally, I was delighted to see Granit Xhaka have a fantastic game while proudly wearing the captain’s armband. He came under unacceptable criticism from former Swiss international Stéphane Henchoz, who said Xhaka doesn’t represent Switzerland and doesn’t deserve to be captain. I really enjoyed seeing Xhaka lead the team today, and he did so fantastically while pulling the strings in midfield.
Highlight of the match
As a proper Swiss fan, this is a tough choice. However, I think the highlight was the first goal, purely because of how beautiful it was. It was a mixture of patience, precise play and teamwork, capped off by an outstanding finish by Steven Zuber. Honourable mentions go to a debut goal for Albian Ajeti and a first for Denis Zakaria.
The reverse fixture will be played in Reykjavík exactly five weeks from today. Before then, each team has one game to play in the Nations League. Iceland are first up, hosting Belgium in just three days. Switzerland will then welcome the Belgians to Luzern in October, before travelling to Iceland three days later.
Switzerland now comfortably sit top of their table, statistically the best team not only in League A but in the entire competition, with an outstanding +6 goal difference. Hopefully this form can continue for the rest of the year, with Switzerland’s next game coming in three days against England.