Switzerland began their EURO 2020 qualifying campaign in style on Saturday afternoon, as they beat Georgia 2-0 in Tbilisi.
The Schweizer Nati settled into the game well in the first half, but were unable to break down their hosts. Ricardo Rodríguez had their best chance of the opening 45 minutes, as his free kick took a big deflection off Jaba Kankava and went just wide of the post.
Georgia had the best chance of the half moments before half time, but Vako Qazaishvili shot straight into the arms of Yann Sommer. Switzerland began the second half strongest, with Remo Freuler and Denis Zakaria coming close for the visitors.
Switzerland took the lead in the 57th minute, as Breel Embolo set up Steven Zuber on the edge of the box who guided it into the bottom corner. It was Zuber’s sixth goal for the Nati, as the Stuttgart forward began the new year just as he had finished the last one.
The Swiss kept pushing for their second goal, but were unable to capitalise on their dominance. Zakaria finally doubled Switzerland’s lead in the 80th minute, picking up the rebound from Albian Ajeti’s effort to slot it home and secure all three points.
It was a deserved win for Switzerland, after they found it hard to find a way through in the first half. However the goalless opening 45 minutes caused no concern for Vladimir Petković, who was happy to watch his team settle in and assert their control of the game.
It was a strong performance and the perfect way to begin the new year, despite having notable absences in Xherdan Shaqiri and Haris Seferović. Switzerland will go into their next game with confidence, as they took the first step towards EURO 2020 qualification.
Meanwhile Georgia will feel they could have got something from that game. Their energy and pressure in the first half was good, and they had a lot of chances to take the lead. However they were beaten by the better side, as their strong home run came to an end.
Despite defeat, Georgia should keep their heads high. They played very well against a top team, and generally defended brilliantly. Their strengths showed in Tbilisi, and they should have high hopes for the remainder of their qualification campaign.
The result sees Switzerland go top of the group for now, though that may soon change with Gibraltar also entertaining Republic of Ireland on Saturday afternoon.
Both sides are back in action next Tuesday, as Switzerland host Denmark at St. Jakob-Park in Basel. Georgia are in Dublin on the same evening, where they play Republic of Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.