One word to sum up Switzerland’s tournament so far? Frustrating.
Frustrating because, for a team who went into EURO 2020 with six consecutive wins and looking like they could go far, Vladimir Petković’s Nati have not performed to their ability.
The Wales draw was two points lost in a winnable game, victory thrown away because of weak game management and lacklustre finishing. The Italy defeat not only showed the gap in quality, but a lack of attitude and passion from a spineless Switzerland.
Now, it all comes down to the final day.
Turkey are the final opponents in Group A, rock bottom as the only team in the group with no points or goals. But when you look at the numbers, there really is not much between the two. Switzerland are only one point better off, have scored just one more and conceded one less – fine margins for a match which should be a comfortable Nati victory on paper.
Alongside the results, it does not help that Switzerland have had to cross Europe three times, with their 10,012 kilometres travelled more than any other team at the tournament. But at the end of the day, those circumstances cannot be used to excuse what has been an underwhelming campaign so far.
Both performances have shown the flaws of this Swiss golden generation: no cutting edge in front of goal, no true goalscorer among their ranks, lapses of concentration at the back.
One must ask whether Switzerland even deserve to progress to the knockout stages. Of course, that is what all Nati fans want, but at this rate, are the Schweizer Nati even capable of beating anyone beyond the group stage? They can turn their tournament around, yet there is a lot of necessary improvement needed in a drastically short amount of time.
A lot can be said about the first two games, but it is time to focus on the challenge ahead.
Switzerland have to win if they stand any chance of reaching the round of 16, which even then is no guarantee. Their goal difference is five goals worse than Wales, who currently sit ahead of them in Group A. Convincing wins for the Swiss and Italy could sneak the former into second, though it is a stretch despite it being a possible scenario on Sunday.
Anything other than three points will see Switzerland knocked out of EURO 2020 – and rightly so. If Petković’s men end the tournament without being able to beat Wales or Turkey, there is no way they can say they deserved better.
With current tactics clearly not working, Petković has to make changes of some sort. A good start would be dropping Haris Seferović, the Swiss striker who can be marvellous on his day but has demonstrated his inconsistent finishing at these finals. Fabian Schär must also make way, having not been up to scratch and making some crucial errors.
The EUROs have been a chance for Switzerland to show their worth to the fans, the continent and the world. But above all, Switzerland must prove to themselves that they can play.
This is a talented team, under the leadership of one of the national team’s greatest managers in what is the golden generation of Swiss football. It is no fluke that the Nati qualified for EURO 2020 and their fifth European Championship in total, earning their place at Europe’s festival of football.
It would be a disaster if they were eliminated at the first hurdle, but a travesty if they did not give it their all. If they did not put in the very best performances possible of this squad, performances that could leave the players with their heads held high and the fans proud of their efforts.
Switzerland must demonstrate that they are a quality team, one which has been criticised by many yet truly appreciated by few. Beating Turkey would not put an end to the investigation of this campaign’s failures, but it would show that they can actually turn up when needed.
It may seem tough, but Switzerland can do it.
Ahead of Sunday’s clash, Petković penned an open letter to Switzerland fans, simply titled “Dear Swiss people”. It is not often that a football manager writes to eight million people and counting, but when a country has disappointed so much in its opening two games, it is the very least that can be done.
An emotive read is best summarised by one sentence. One line which sums up what Switzerland are about, what this national team is capable of, what a small nation can do when it comes together and defies the footballing odds, time after time.
“We have to bring all of our values and virtues back into place: solidarity, identification, joy and respect. Then we can do it.”
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Read my Switzerland articles here
Italy humbling highlights Switzerland’s misfortunes in sorry style
Imperfect defensive display costs Switzerland in EURO 2020 opener