Switzerland who beat World champion France will face Spain at Saint Petersburg of Friday to book a place in the semi-final.
Switzerland will face three time champions Spain in the first quarter-final match of Euro 2020 on Friday. Both teams are coming to Saint Petersburg after thrilling round of 16 encounter’s. Switzerland got the better of World champion France on penalties whereas Spain defeated Croatia 5-3 in extra time. Spain had a mediocre start to the competition with draws against Sweden and Poland. But they thrashed Slovakia 5-0 in the final group match to book a place in the last 16. Meanwhile, Switzerland also had a below par start to the tournament, registering a draw and a loss in the first two fixtures. But they beat Turkey 3-1 to book a place in the knockout stage. (Results and fixtures)
Switzerland were clearly the underdogs in the clash against favourites France. But Vladmir Petkovic’s side showed grit and resilience to come back after going down by 3-1.
Haris Seferovic gave Switzerland the surprise lead against France. But Karim Benzema’s brace and Paul Pogba’s stunning goal in the 75th minute made the score 3-1. Most people around the world would have written them off at this stage.
But La Nati reduced the deficit through Seferovic’s second of the night in the 81st minute. Then, substitute Mario Gavranovic leveled the score in the last minute of regular time. Extra time and then penalties followed.
Goalkeeper Yann Sommer denied Kylian Mbappe from the spot to take Switzerland through to their first quarter-final at the Euros. It was also their first win in the knockout fixture of a major tournament in 83 years.
In another mouthwatering round of 16 fixture, Spain let a 3-1 lead against Croatia slip. Croatia scored two goals in the last five minutes to take the game to extra time.
But La Furia Roja netted through Juventus striker Alvaro Morata and Mikel Oyarzabal to book a ticket to Russia. Spain conceded the first goal courtesy of an error by goalkeeper Unai Simon. But they came back to hit three goals before the 77th minute through Pablo Sarabia, Cesar Azpilicueta and Ferran Torres.
Switzerland will be without their captain and talisman Granit Xhaka for the quarter-final tie because of suspension. Therefore Petkovic is likely to bring in Denis Zakaria in the middle of the park for Xhaka. Other than that, they are unlikely to make any changes to the team that started against France on Monday.
Seferovic will play up front alongside Breel Embolo. Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri will support them and have the license to roam around. Last match’s hero Sommer will keep his place in goal with Nico Elvedi, Manuel Akanji and Ricardo Rodriguez forming the three man back line in front of him.
Eintracht Frankfurt winger Steve Zuber, who had an impressive game against France will occupy the left wing with Silvan Eidmer at the opposite wing. Remo Freuler will pull the string from midfield. Gavranovic is likely to start at the bench and is more than capable of coming on as a substitute and delivering.
On the other hand, Spain have no injuries or suspension issues therefore Enrique is also unlikely to make any changes to the team that started against Croatia. Unai Simon will keep his place in goal with central defenders Aymeric Laporte and Eric Garcia in front of him. Chelsea captain Azpilicueta is likely to keep his place at right-back. He gives them a bit more defensive solidity in an attacking lineup. Jose Gaya will be deployed at left-back.
Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets, Pedri and Atletico Madrid’s Koke will form the three man midfield. Busquets who missed the first two matches of the competition due to Covid-19 has made a stunning return by winning two man of the match awards in the previous two fixtures.
The 32-year-old defensive midfielder’s return has allowed Koke and Pedri to push forward and make the runs down the middle and also his ability to dictate the pace of the game and deliver defence splitting passes are crucial for Spain.
Morata will be the main striker up front with Sarabia and Torres playing the supporting role. Dani Olmo, Oyarzabal and Gerard Moreno are more than handy options on the bench.
Both side have faced each other 22 time before and Spain clearly dominates the head-to-head record with 16 wins 1 loss and 5 draws. When it comes to major tournament’s Switzerland got the better of them in the opening group fixture of 2010 World Cup, when Spain went on to win the competition at South Africa.
Spain are clearly the better side on paper and with the return of Busquets they seem to have found the ex-factor in the middle of the park. Although they have scored 10 goals in the last two matches they have also conceded 6, that will certainly give hope to the Swiss.
Switzerland are capable of scoring goals as they have shown against France and Spain’s leaky defence will need to be wary of that. Spain likes to keep the ball while Switzerland are more than capable of sitting back and hit them on the counter.
The winner of the match will face either Italy or Belgium in the Euro 2020 semi-finals.