Switzerland are in the round of 16, but that is where it becomes difficult.
An arduous Group A campaign saw the Schweizer Nati sneak through as one of the best third-place teams, an unappealing route through proving to be their last resort. At the end of the day, knockout qualification was the aim, and they achieved that.
With the Nati’s spot confirmed, there was a list of countries they could face in the knockout stages. Top-ranked Belgium would have posed a massive challenge as would defending champions Portugal, contrasted by the more open clash against Sweden.
But if there was one team Switzerland wanted to avoid, it was France.
The reigning world champions contested the group of death and won it, albeit with the lowest points tally of any group winner. Les Bleus prevailed in Group F without defeat, a commendable feat considering they were up against the likes of Germany and Portugal.
France are the favourites to win EURO 2020, and it is easy to see why. A star-studded team led by Didier Deschamps, boasting the likes of Kylian Mbappé, N’Golo Kanté, Karim Benzema and Raphaël Varane, to name a few. Entering the tournament three years after winning the World Cup, this French side is just as strong – if not stronger.
For France, the expectations are high. The quality of the country, from the manager to the players, is one few nations in the world can rival. Emerging unscathed from the group stage was one task, but going all the way to win their third European Championship remains the ultimate objective this summer.
Meeting their alpine neighbours is nothing new for Switzerland – this will be the fifth major tournament of the 21st century where they have played France.
Four games without a win is not a pretty record, especially when that includes a 5-2 demolition at the 2014 World Cup. However, two goalless draws in 2006 and 2016 show that the Swiss are capable of holding the French and remaining resolute – the only problem is that the same result would give no guarantee of a quarter-final berth.
Switzerland have not beaten France since 1992, with no competitive victory ever. It is a fixture with huge history though, with Switzerland’s first ever international coming against the French in 1905.
In short, this is a fixture with huge historical significance both over time and recently, as two contrasting neighbours meet again on the big stage.
Fast forward to the modern day, and Switzerland face a huge challenge in Bucharest.
EURO 2020 has not been the finest tournament performance for the Schweizer Nati yet, but that could all change on Tuesday. The Italy demolition and fortunate qualification could all be forgotten in 90 minutes – one night where Switzerland could make history.
When it comes to Switzerland in major tournaments this century, ‘consistent but unlucky’ comes to mind.
Consistent in the fact that the Nati have missed just three tournaments in the 21st century, reaching the round of 16 for the last four consecutive competitions. Only France and Belgium – the world’s top two ranked sides – can also boast that achievement, demonstrating just how remarkable that is for the Swiss.
Yet unlucky, because in those last three round of 16 exits, Switzerland deserved better.
In 2014, when eventual finalists Argentina broke Swiss hearts with a 118th minute winner in São Paulo.
In 2016, when Poland edged past in a penalty shootout settled by just one spot kick in Saint-Étienne.
In 2018, when Sweden sneaked through with a wildly deflected goal in a scrappy affair in Saint-Petersburg.
Each and every time, Switzerland have been so close yet so far to reaching a quarter-final, something which has eluded them since 1954. Not since the Nati hosted the World Cup of that year have they matched that achievement since, finding themselves heartbroken on every subsequent occasion.
No-one is expecting the Swiss to demolish the French, let alone be quarter-finalists year in, year out. Yet this is about more than EURO 2020. This is about ending a curse which has haunted and harrowed Switzerland for years, denying them the opportunity to make a small Alpine nation proud by being one of the best eight teams.
The odds are stacked against them, but when has that stopped little old Switzerland? Think back to 2010 when they stunned Spain at the World Cup, or 2018 when Belgium were demolished by the Nati in the Nations League finale.
Switzerland can make history: beating France in a competitive fixture for the first time ever, reaching a first quarter-final in 67 years, recording their best ever EURO finish.
Can Switzerland do it? Yes they can.
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