Euro 2020: Wales and Switzerland left to rue missed chances as they entertain and frustrate in equal measure

Both Wales and Switzerland will have to go back to the drawing board before crucial second Euro 2020 encounters after their 1-1 draw.

Breel Embolo was a bright spark for Switzerland in their Euro 2020 match against Wales. (Image: Twitter/@EURO2020)
By Shayne Dias | Jun 12, 2021 | 4 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

In the end, a point each was no more than what either Wales or Switzerland deserved. The two teams came into their opening Euro 2020 match with two very different ideas on how to win the game. In the end, neither could truly succeed in imposing themselves when it mattered most. Starting a tournament with a draw is not the worst beginning, yet this wasn’t a case of a dull listless affair predictably ending in a stalemate. For long parts of the game, a result looked likely – with Switzerland the team favourites to get it. However, both teams will now go back to the drawing board before crucial second encounters.

But perhaps what was most frustrating for fans of either side was that things could have been very different had their approach in key moments been different.

Lack of finishing touch costs Switzerland

For the Vladimir Petkovic-coached side, creating chances wasn’t the issue – it was converting them. The first half saw them keep 72% of the possession and have 11 shots to Wales’ 2.

Haris Seferovic was the guiltiest party in that regard. The forward spurned three chances – including a glit-edged one just before half-time.

Breel Embolo was the liveliest of the Swiss players and it was he who finally put them ahead. His mazy runs and speed with the ball made it hard for the Welsh defence to cope with him.

His headed goal – coming from the corner he earned, incidentally – was what Switzerland deserved at the time. Wales looked out of ideas when attacking, with only Dan James offering some kind of threat conistently.

The Swiss, however, continued to miss big chances even after Wales levelled the game. In the end, it was that – rather than their brief switch to a defensive set-up after going ahead – that cost them the most.

Yet it is worth asking questions over why Petkovic went defensive in the first place. A one-goal lead is not enough to defend unless you’re a prime Jose Mourinho side.

Switzerland looked comfortable dominating possession, with skipper Granit Xhaka pulling the strings from midfield with some good passing.

And it was he who looked the most uncomfortable when Switzerland sat deep, evidenced by a clumsy lunge at former Arsenal teammate Aaron Ramsey.

It didn’t affect them much going forward, because they still created chances afterwards. But it isn’t a coincidence that Wales’ equaliser came when Switzerland were sitting deep and running down the clock.

Wales of Euro 2020 not the same as in 2016

Wales’ run in Euro 2016 is fondly remembered by fans and neutrals alike. However, their first game in Euro 2020 saw something of a departure from what made them so fun to watch in 2016.

The squad, managed by Chris Coleman, were well organised and worked hard for the team. However, going forward they were an absolute threat to any defence.

The same cannot be said of the current side, at least not based on their performance against Switzerland. Gareth Bale, whose pace and incision was vital in 2016, was invisible on the right flank.

Kieffer Moore worked hard up front but was devoid of any real service. Dan James was arguably their best attacker yet got subbed before they equalised.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but Wales could have used someone with his pace when chasing a second goal. Yet their lack of bite in attack meant Switzerland came closer to scoring a winner.

It wasn’t just down to the tactics though. In 2016, Wales played with a carefree abandon that made them a threat going forward. It was less about the tactics and more about the frame of mind they played with.

The current side, however, played a classic smash-and-grab set-up as they sat deep and looked to break when the opportunity arose.

It is admittedly an effective tactic even in the modern-day game, where pressing and positional interplay rule the roost. However, Wales didn’t make the most of the chances that came their way.

Indeed, as the game wore on, it looked likelier that Switzerland would score first – which they did. And it was no coincidence that Wales played much better when they were a goal down and the handbrake was off.

Lessons for both teams

For Rob Page, who will be under scrutiny owing to the simple fact that Wales are without regular manager Ryan Giggs, the implication is clear – less rigidity and more fluidity is the name of the game.

However, their next Euro 2020 match is against Italy – who, somewhat ironically, have been playing some amazing free-flowing football under Roberto Mancini.

Whether or not the handbrake is lifted or pushed down on further remains to be seen.

For Switzerland, the issue isn’t their style of play – which is well sorted – but about finishing their chances. Given they face a Turkey side that looked at sea against Italy, they will fancy their chance at a win.

However, more wastefulness of the kind they showed against Wales will leave them in a tricky position going into the final round of group matches.

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