Switzerland recorded a fourth-placed finish in the Nations League Finals on Sunday, as they lost 6-5 on penalties to England in Guimarães.
England came within inches of taking the lead early on, but Yann Sommer touched Harry Kane’s effort onto the bar. The Nati keeper was called into action again, keeping Raheem Sterling’s close range effort out.
Sterling had another great opportunity to put the Three Lions ahead, as he mistimed his shot. Dele Alli got a free header inside the box, but his effort flew over the bar as England squandered their chances to take the lead.
Xherdan Shaqiri and Haris Seferović combined well again, but the Benfica forward did not capitalise on his service. This included a glaring one-on-one miss, in which Seferović waited too long to pull the trigger and saw his shot blocked by the England defence.
England were inches away from taking the lead in the second half, as Fabian Schär’s sliced clearance came off the post. With Harry Kane waiting in the box, Schär had to do something, as he got a stroke of luck in his clearance.
Granit Xhaka then went up the other end and hit a powerful shot, which was parried away well by Jordan Pickford. It was arguably the closest Switzerland came all day long, as it remained goalless.
The greatest drama of the match came in the 83rd minute, as Video Assistant Referee (VAR) had its say once again. Substitute Callum Wilson thought he had poked home the winner, but a VAR check showed that he had fouled Manuel Akanji in the build up, and therefore disallowed the goal. That call saw the game end goalless, as half an hour of extra time was confirmed.
England could’ve won it were it not for a wonderful piece of goalkeeping from Sommer. He first pulled off a wonderful save from Alli’s header, before getting up instantly to smother Sterling’s shot.
It eventually went to a penalty shootout, which went to sudden death after ten flawless penalties. With Josip Drmić needing to score to make it 6-6 and keep the shootout alive, Pickford made a great save to his right hand side to win the game for England.
Every time England went forward, they looked dangerous- not only because of their talent, but due to the same weaknesses in the Swiss defence. Despite the clear faults of a three-man defence showing against Portugal on Wednesday, Petković once again opted for a back three consisting of Schär, Akanji and Nico Elvedi.
Nevertheless, the Three Lions were good and deserved the win in the end. While it was frustrating they got the job done in exceptional circumstances, with this being the second successive game to go to extra time.
While England didn’t take their chances in the first half, Switzerland were far too inviting. Their marking was poor, there were frequent lapses of concentration and they were just too vulnerable.
With Ricardo Rodríguez and Kevin Mbabu playing as wing backs, the lack of protection made it an uncomfortable game for the Swiss defence. While the defensive performance improved in the second half, it was far from flawless.
In attack, it was a completely different picture from the Swiss. They were confident and fluid going forward, with Shaqiri, Fernandes and Mbabu creating some superb chances. However they simply were not clinical enough, and once again couldn’t take their chances.
Nevertheless, there were a lot of strong performers for Switzerland. Mbabu put in another excellent display out wide, defending well and creating chances throughout. Edimilson Fernandes also played well on the wing, filling in well for Steven Zuber. Yann Sommer also pulled off some crucial saves, which kept the Nati in the game for far longer.
Sunday’s third-place playoff brings an end to a wonderful season to the Schweizer Nati. Starting in St. Gallen in September and finishing in Guimarães, this campaign was all about the Nations League. Switzerland should certainly be proud of themselves for reaching the Nations League Finals, in what is a wonderful achievement.
The Schweizer Nati are not in action again until September, when they return to their EURO 2020 qualification campaign. They start with a trip to Dublin to face the Republic of Ireland on 5 September, before hosting Gibraltar in Sion three days later.