Switzerland qualified for EURO 2020 by finishing top of Group D on Monday night, as they beat Gibraltar 6-1 at the Victoria Stadium.
Switzerland only needed ten minutes to take the lead, as Cedric Itten scored his second international goal in two caps. Ruben Vargas’ delightful low ball into the box was missed by goalkeeper Dayle Coleing, and Itten was perfectly positioned to guide it home and put the Swiss in front.
Joseph Chipolina had Gibraltar’s best chance of the first half, bringing down a long ball inside the box. However Ricardo Rodríguez was there to thwart his attempt, blocking the shot brilliantly to preserve the Nati’s lead at half-time.
The Nati doubled their advantage minutes into the second half, with Vargas deservedly getting his name on the scoresheet. Loris Benito crossed the ball in, and the young winger glanced his header into the bottom corner to score his first goal for Switzerland.
It wasn’t long before they added a third, with another attacker getting his maiden goal. The ball fell awkwardly inside the six-yard box, as Christian Fassnacht bundled it into the net to mark a memorable night for him and all but wrap up the win.
Gibraltar got an unlikely consolation, as some poor Swiss defending allowed substitute Reece Styche to fire home from point blank range. The goal didn’t faze Switzerland, as a minute later Loris Benito did the exact same at the other end to restore the visitors’ three goal lead.
Having squandered a number of chances throughout the game, Itten finally got his second of the game six minutes from the end with a beautiful header. Moments later and captain Granit Xhaka got a goal of his own, delicately curling his shot beyond Coleing to complete the Swiss rout and secure their place at EURO 2020.
On a night where three sides could qualify from Group D, Switzerland arrived in the best position. All they needed was a point at most to qualify, with a win securing top spot for the Schweizer Nati.
Switzerland started the game on the front foot, and while Gibraltar had the odd break the Swiss affirmed control early on. It didn’t take long for them to get on the scoresheet and grasp the game by the scruff of its neck, but a one goal lead was all they had going into the break.
The Nati were ruthless in attack, looking threatening every time they went forward and once again creating some nice chances, this time down both flanks. Ruben Vargas was outstanding, clearly building in confidence and experience game by game in another superb display.
Six goals are a testament to a superb attacking performance, with 35 attempts on target across the 90 minutes. Vladimir Petković’s side could’ve had half a dozen more goals – especially through Itten alone – but there are no complaints when hitting a team for six.
Vargas was the best player on the pitch, though many Swiss stars flourished under the lights. Cedric Itten made it three goals in his first two Nati appearances, while Xhaka, Rodríguez and Elvedi also put in good shifts.
While the attacking performance was nothing short of flawless, defensive problems were still prevalent. Gibraltar, who had scored two goals in the entire qualifying campaign, looked like they could score against a vulnerable and patchy Swiss defence.
Switzerland made small mistakes throughout the game, and while they thankfully led to nothing small lapses of concentrations and sloppy passes showed the weaknesses of the Nati’s game. Gibraltar’s goal was concerning to see, with the marking from the corner absolutely atrocious to allow the hosts to score only their third goal in eight games.
With all due respect, if the Nati can’t keep a clean sheet against the side ranked 196th in the world, how will they cope at Europe’s biggest international tournament? Gibraltar do deserve credit for getting the goal and not giving up, and at the end of the day it’s Swiss delight on the Rock as they qualified for their fifth European Championship.
This qualifying campaign hasn’t been easy for Switzerland, with late goals galore and a devastating double blow at the hands of Denmark. But if it showed us anything, we saw the fight and desire from the Swiss that will serve the team well for years to come.
Whether they be hard-fought wins away to Georgia or at home to the Republic of Ireland, or recovering from losing a 3-0 lead at home to Denmark or losing late on to the same side, Switzerland have never given up and have always shown fantastic character and determination to win the game.
It’s a deserved berth booked at EURO 2020, as Switzerland have made yet another major tournament.
NATI PLAYER RATINGS
(Out of 10)
Nati Man of the Match: RUBEN VARGAS
Yann SOMMER: 6
Nico ELVEDI: 7
Manuel AKANJI: 6
Ricardo RODRÍGUEZ: 7
Loris BENITO: 6
Granit XHAKA: 7
Denis ZAKARIA: 6
Michael LANG: 7
Christian FASSNACHT: 7
Ruben VARGAS: 8*
Cedric ITTEN: 8
Djibril SOW: 6
Eray CÖMERT: 6
Michel AEBISCHER: N/A
After eight months, eight games and a gruelling qualifying campaign, Group D reads wonderfully for Switzerland. The Schweizer Nati finish first in the table one point clear of Denmark, and have qualified for the 2020 European Championship next summer.
Switzerland and Denmark qualify automatically from Group D, with the Nati entering Pot 2 in the draw on 30th November. The Republic of Ireland and Georgia enter the play-offs thanks to their Nations League performances, as they have another shot of qualification.
It’s another major tournament for Petković and a second consecutive appearance at the Euros, as the Swiss prepare to showcase themselves on Europe’s biggest stage. As always, I am so proud of the Schweizer Nati, and cannot wait for next summer.
Bring on EURO 2020.