Switzerland missed the chance to reach their first ever major final, as they lost 3-1 to Portugal on Wednesday night.
Xherdan Shaqiri had the first chance of the game after just a few minutes, but Rui Patrício saved well with his legs. Shaqiri then delivered a wonderfully inviting cross into the box, but Haris Seferović mistimed his header and missed the ball as Shaqiri’s delivery went agonisingly wide of the post.
Cristiano Ronaldo had a huge chance soon after, as Manuel Akanji’s pass was intercepted. However the Juventus star scuffed his shot wide, as the Swiss got away with another defensive mistake. Shaqiri and Seferović wasted big opportunities to take the lead, as they were unable to take advantage.
Ronaldo eventually gave the Selecao the lead after 25 minutes, as he won a free-kick after Kevin Mbabu was wrongly deemed to have fouled him. The Portuguese poster boy stepped up, and wrong footed Yann Sommer in goal with his superb free-kick to give the hosts the lead.
Switzerland would draw level in the second half, but only after a huge moment from Video Assistant Referee (VAR). The Swiss were denied a penalty and, as referee Felix Brych played the advantage, Portugal won a penalty. However, a VAR check saw Brych revert his decision to award the hosts a penalty and instead gave one to the Swiss.
Ricardo Rodríguez stepped up, keeping calm after a brief but tense wait. The AC Milan defender struck hard and low, and although goalkeeper Rui Patrício got to it he couldn’t keep it out as the Swiss drew level.
Nonetheless, Portugal were not finished. Two sumptuous goals in the final two minutes from Cristiano Ronaldo made the difference, as the Selecao secured the win to progress to the final and break Swiss hearts.
Switzerland were playing promising football in the first half, but they couldn’t capitalise on their chances. Chance after chance came by for the Swiss, but nothing came. Seferović, Shaqiri and Mbabu all combined brilliantly together, but to no end product.
Watching Switzerland defend was worrying. A back four turned into a back three within the opening few minutes, with Mbabu moving up the pitch. However, this back three was clearly vulnerable against a deadly Portugal attack- every time the Selecao played the ball down the flanks, the Swiss looked uncomfortable and uncertain.
They deservedly drew level, and Rodríguez’s spot kick rejuvenated the Nati. They fought their way back into the game, and had a string of huge chances again to win the game. However, it wasn’t meant to be.
Portugal certainly deserve credit, though it was really one man in particular. Cristiano Ronaldo produced a stunning performance, and while he was frustrated for the majority of the game he took his chances and struck three vicious blows to send the Swiss packing.
Despite the result, I’m still incredibly proud of Switzerland. The fact that we reached the Final Four is an achievement of its own, and they put in a fighting performance and gave it their all. While it wasn’t enough, the Swiss certainly made us all proud.
It’s painful, but reaching these types of tournaments shows progress and strength. Now, it’s about further building and developing this squad, and finding the solution to pushing the nation to their first ever major honour.
It’s been a wonderful debut campaign in the Nations League, though there is still one more game to play. Switzerland go into the third place playoff in Guimaraes, and will play the loser of Thursday’s semi final between England and the Netherlands.
Meanwhile, Portugal will be back at the Estádio da Dragão on Sunday to contest the first ever Nations League Final. They now wait to see who they will meet in Porto, which will be known within 24 hours of their win.