Switzerland fell to their first defeat in EURO 2020 qualifying on Saturday evening, as they lost 1-0 to Denmark in Copenhagen.
The first chance of the game fell to Switzerland, with a ferocious long shot from Granit Xhaka. As it looked to be curling into the top corner, Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel pulled off an incredible save, pushing his effort onto the bar.
Admir Mehmedi then had a great chance, as he volleyed a long pass first time towards goal. However Schmeichel was there to save the Danes once again, getting down low to produce another amazing save to keep it goalless going into the break.
The Schweizer Nati continued with the same intensity and creativity going forward, with Ricardo Rodríguez the next to come close. His powerful long shot flew towards the Denmark goal, but Schmeichel saved the hosts again with an incredible save, as he pushed the ball over the bar.
Thomas Delaney had Denmark’s first big chance of the game soon after, as his header from Christian Eriksen’s corner went just wide of post. It was Denmark’s first threat on Yann Sommer’s goal, though was a sign of things to come.
As the game looked to be heading for a stalemate, Denmark snatched the win with six minutes to play. Eriksen’s pass cut open the Swiss defence and put Yussuf Poulsen through on goal, as the RB Leipzig striker kept his cool to slot past Sommer and snatch the three points for Denmark.
Switzerland were so close to equalising with the last kick of the game, but Schmeichel came to rescue Denmark again. Delaney flicked Xhaka’s free kick onto his own goal, and the Leicester City goalkeeper threw himself down to the bottom corner to palm it away and win the game for Denmark.
There were no ifs, no buts on Saturday: Switzerland had to win. With the Republic of Ireland being held to a goalless draw by Georgia hours earlier and the Swiss with a game in hand, they had to get the three points.
The first half was promising, as Switzerland created good chances in the absence of the traditional creative players, such as Xherdan Shaqiri and Steven Zuber. Xhaka and Mehmedi both came extremely close, as did Rodríguez in the second half.
The Schweizer Nati were generally very solid at the back as well, staying tight and focused in another back three. Stephan Lichtsteiner looked comfortable back in the side as he bombed down the wing, while Rodríguez was excellent going forward.
However, the defensive flaws were finally exposed in the 84th minute, as Denmark exploited the backline and simply cut them open. It was so frustrating to watch, and to say it was an embarrassment would be an understatement.
One pass, a lack of overall concentration and some awful positioning meant that Denmark were gifted a match point, which they gratefully accepted. It was so easy, so simple, so predictable. Shocking Swiss defending has cost us again.
The worse thing is the fact that we conceded late on. Again. Seven out of the eight goals Switzerland have conceded in 2019 have been in the final 10 minutes, costing them five points in qualifying and a possible place in the Nations League Final. It’s not good enough.
Vladimir Petković is paying the price for playing a back three every game, and the same thing is happening again and again. The whole year, I’ve argued against us playing a back three, and games like this prove my point time after time after time.
These five points thrown away from late goals conceded mean that, instead of being on course for automatic qualification, Switzerland are four points off with three games to play. The upcoming games against the Republic of Ireland, Georgia and Gibraltar are absolute must-win games, and if the Swiss drop points in any of those games, it could be game over.
If there’s any praise to give Denmark, it goes to Kasper Schmeichel. The Danish goalkeeper had one of his best ever games and really won the game for the Danes, with a handful of incredible saves. It wasn’t glamorous for Denmark, but a job well done in Copenhagen.
NATI PLAYER RATINGS
(Out of 10)
Yann Sommer: 6
Manuel Akanji: 5
Fabian Schär: 6
Nico Elvedi: 5
Ricardo Rodríguez: 7
Granit Xhaka: 5
Denis Zakaria: 7
Stephan Lichtsteiner: 6
Admir Mehmedi: 5
Haris Seferović: 5
Breel Embolo: 7
Kevin Mbabu: 6
Remo Freuler: N/A
Josip Drmić: N/A
It’s not looking good for Switzerland, who remain third in Group D four points behind Denmark and the Republic of Ireland. Even winning their game in hand doesn’t see them overtake their competitors, as automatic qualification looks less and less likely.
Switzerland are in Geneva next, as they welcome the Republic of Ireland to the Stade de Genève on 15th October. A draw could be costly, but defeat could see the end of Switzerland’s pursuit of automatic qualification.