It has been a tournament like no other for Switzerland.
Competing at their fifth European Championship at EURO 2020, the Schweizer Nati defied all odds to reach the quarter-final for the first time ever, and a first at a major tournament since 1954.
From being on the verge of early elimination to stunning the world champions, Vladimir Petković’s side brought a nation together, sparking scenes never seen before in Switzerland. It is a summer that no Swiss will ever forget, living long in the memory of those who experienced it.
Now that Switzerland’s EURO campaign has come to an end, it is time to sit back, relax and review the greatest summer in Swiss football history.
Best game: France 3-3 (4-5 pens) Switzerland
Was there ever any choice?
Going into the game with little chance but maximum faith, Switzerland met world champions France to kick off the knockout stages. There would be no hard feelings should the Nati’s tournament have ended right there and then in Bucharest, but Haris Seferović had other ideas when he opened the scoring inside 15 minutes.
Even after Ricardo Rodríguez’s saved spot kick and France’s rampant comeback, Switzerland just did not seem to give up – even if some had. Seferović’s second and Mario Gavranovic’s finest moment in red saw Switzerland salvage their way back into it. From there, the Swiss were never going to lose.
Every penalty was perfectly dispatched in the penalty shootout, a display of pure Nati precision from the spot. When Yann Sommer saved the decisive penalty, history was made. The joy, the ecstasy, the outpouring of emotions are scenes we will never, ever forget, showing just what it meant for this country to pull off the seemingly impossible.
A first ever EURO quarter-final, a first final eight appearance in 67 years, a first penalty shootout victory and a first competitive win over France. Not a bad way to do it.
Worst game: Italy 3-0 Switzerland
A game so bad, Petković was forced to pen an open apology letter to the nation. Going to Rome and facing the mighty Italy was never going to be an easy ask, but the way Switzerland crumbled and collapsed in the Eternal City was truly devastating.
Manuel Locatelli scored just his second and third goals for the Azzurri either side of half time, as they ran riot and carved open the Swiss defence. Petković’s back three was falling apart right in front of his eyes, succumbing to the immense talent of the Italian attack.
By the time Ciro Immobile added a third, it was already game, set and match for Italy. Defeat to Italy came as little shock, but the manner in which Switzerland just capitulated in Rome was unacceptable for the modern day standards of the Nati golden generation.
That defeat left Switzerland with one point after two games, hanging on for dear life at EURO 2020 and needing to climb a steep mountain to escape Group A. To think how the Schweizer Nati bounced back from disarray to pull off the unexpected is just a testament to their mentality, fighting back from the ruins to become gladiators.
Highlight: Yann Sommer’s penalty save
When Switzerland’s number one met France’s poster boy, the Swiss wall stood strong. All nine players had converted their penalties so far in the penalty shootout, with Admir Mehmedi giving the Nati match point with his coolly dispatched penalty.
It was hard to see Kylian Mbappé missing. But the French superstar had not yet scored at the finals, looking nervous and on edge as he approached the penalty spot. On the other hand, Sommer looked calm and composed, a notorious penalty expert for Switzerland in recent years.
The focus was on Mbappé’s miss, but it was a superb save from Sommer. A firm, strong hand to deny him, and the crowning moment in the 32-year-old’s remarkable career. Not only was that Switzerland’s highlight of the tournament, but undoubtedly the greatest moment in Swiss football history.
Best player: Yann Sommer
For years, Sommer has been underappreciated in the football world. After EURO 2020, everyone can finally recognise his status as one of the best goalkeepers around.
Many players had outstanding individual performances: Breel Embolo against Wales, Xherdan Shaqiri against Turkey, Granit Xhaka against France. But Sommer was consistently class throughout the tournament, putting in blinding displays in all five games. Put it simply, Switzerland could not ask for a better number one.
The oldest player in Switzerland’s squad at 32, you would not think it at all. Sommer was marvellous and always there as the last line of defence, pulling off countless world-class saves and leading superbly from the back. As of the quarter-finals, Sommer’s incredible 21 saves is more than any other goalkeeper in the tournament.
EURO 2020 was Sommer’s third tournament as the Swiss number one, and he is showing no sign of stopping yet. Now the most capped goalkeeper for Switzerland, there is no doubt now that Sommer is Switzerland’s greatest ever goalkeeper.
Honourable mentions: Granit Xhaka, Steven Zuber, Nico Elvedi, Breel Embolo, Haris Seferović
Best young player: Ruben Vargas
While he will be remembered for his painful penalty miss against Spain, it is a tournament to savour for Ruben Vargas. Continuing his rise through the Swiss ranks, the 22-year-old earned his first callup to add attacking depth to Petković’s squad. Whether he knew the influential role he would play is hard to know.
As Xherdan Shaqiri lacked full match fitness, Vargas was his go-to replacement in the attacking 10 role in behind the two strikers. Four substitute appearances saw Vargas get a decent handful of minutes in his debut tournament, looking bright on the ball and not afraid to drive forward and take on defenders.
Even before he blazed his effort over the bar in Saint Petersburg, Vargas scored in style in the shootout win against France, a magical moment for the youngster. This will definitely not be the last we see of the former FC Luzern starlet, as he continues to grow into his element and soon become a key player in Switzerland’s next generation.
Special recognition: Vladimir Petković
Reaching the quarter-final, defeating the world champions, uniting a nation: none of this would have been possible without Vladimir Petković.
Since taking over the reins in 2014, the project he has built with the national team has been a privilege to experience, watching Switzerland grow from strength to strength. Petković has now guided the Nati to a major quarter-final for the first time in 1954, and surely back up the FIFA world rankings and potentially into the top 10.
The tournament has also made Petković the longest-serving Switzerland manager, overtaking Karl Rappan as he took charge of his 78th international game. With the highest points-per-game tally (1.79) of any manager and a positive win percentage of 52.8 per cent, Petković has gone down in the history books as Switzerland’s greatest ever manager.
EURO 2020 is a tournament which no Swiss will ever forget. The summer where everyone was made to dream, to believe in this special generation of Switzerland players. This is the end of the journey but far from the end of the road: Switzerland will be back, ready to take the world by storm once again.
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