Euro 2020 preview, Group A – Switzerland: Craig King picks out Xherdan Shaqiri as key man
Our Matchday Squad will cover every nation at the Euros
For Euro 2020, we’ve assembled 24 expert journalists to give you the latest insight and tips on every team throughout the tournament.
Here, Craig King gives us his take on Switzerland…
Give us an overview of your team’s chances at Euro 2020
Switzerland have all the potential to go deep into the tournament. Despite their difficult group containing Italy, Wales and Turkey, there is an expectation to at least reach the round of 16 for the fourth consecutive major tournament and there is also optimism that they can progress past this stage at a major tournament for the first time since 1954.
Switzerland have proven in the recent past that they can compete with any nation. Their scintillating 5-2 victory over Belgium to qualify for the UEFA Nations League finals in 2019 is just one example of this. They also memorably beat Spain at the 2010 World Cup, pushed Argentina to extra-time at the 2014 World Cup and drew with Brazil in 2018.
It is also imperative that key players like Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka and Haris Seferovic turn up at their very best to give Switzerland the best chance of having a good run in the tournament.
What would you say are your team’s major strengths?
The main strength of the team lies in the goalkeeping and midfield positions.
Yann Sommer is the number one and is regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
The midfield is the strongest area. Granit Xhaka is the glue that holds it together. He often splits opinion at club level but is consistent for Switzerland and is a key figure on and off the pitch as captain.
Xherdan Shaqiri is the most creative player on the field and makes Switzerland tick while Steven Zuber has proven himself to be a major tournament player in the past.
And any weaknesses?
Switzerland still lack an efficient goalscorer in the team. Haris Seferovic has hugely improved his output recently but he can’t be solely relied upon to provide the goals consistently and it is a similar story with fellow attackers Breel Embolo and Mario Gavranovic.
This is probably best illustrated by the fact that at the last three major tournaments, a Swiss player has only scored more than one goal once: Xherdan Shaqiri at the 2014 World Cup.
It is a problem area for Switzerland and has probably hindered their chances of progressing further than they have in previous tournaments.
Give us the lowdown on your team’s star player?
Unsurprisingly, Xherdan Shaqiri. It really can’t be overstated just how important he is to the team. It speaks volumes that despite lack of play time at Liverpool, Shaqiri is an automatic selection for the squad when fit.
His creativity (24 assists) and goals (23) are the highest in the squad.
His hat-trick against Honduras in 2014, stunning equaliser against Poland in 2016 and late winner vs Serbia in 2018 are all major moments where Shaqiri has proven himself to be the talisman of the side. If Shaqiri plays at his best, Switzerland usually do too.
And tell us about a player from your team who could be a breakthrough star at this tournament?
Ruben Vargas could shine at the tournament. The FC Augsburg player has 11 caps to his name at the age of 22 and is growing into the team with every game. Vargas has plenty of potential and should receive opportunities at the tournament with injury ruling Renato Steffen out of contention.
Vargas also scored six goals and contributed three assists in the Bundesliga this season.
How far do you think your team can go in this tournament?
It is perhaps the most well-rounded and difficult group that Switzerland have faced in their recent tournament history and all four sides will believe they can beat each other. I think Switzerland have the ability to finish at the top of the group but they should be able to qualify in second at a minimum. Of course, third place is also a potential qualification place at the Euros now but Switzerland shouldn’t need to rely on that.
I also genuinely believe that they can go further than the last 16 this time around, if the draw is kind. They were disappointing when drawn with Poland and Sweden, two similar sides, at that stage in the last two major tournaments but I think the team has improved and learned from those painful defeats.
My prediction for Switzerland is to reach the quarter-final stage of Euro 2020.
Easy one to finish with, who wins the tournament, and who do you think will be top scorer?
Winner: Portugal. Top Scorer: Romelu Lukaku.