Switzerland can count themselves very unlucky. They have not won a single game in 2020 but it is not for a lack of trying. In their last game (a friendly against Belgium), they took the lead in the 12th minute through Admir Mehmedi but they lost after a second half brace from Michy Batshuayi. Their last competitive game was against Germany. The Swiss took a two-goal lead by the 26th minute but the match ended 3-3. They also lost by 1 goal to Spain earlier in the tournament. This was after losing 1-2 to Croatia despite going ahead first. Vladimir Petkovic must be wondering what his squad has to do to secure a win.
Spain’s last win came against this opposition. Since then, they have lost to Ukraine and they drew their match against the Netherlands. Under Luis Enrique, Spain is going through a very strange phase. The golden talents of the last generation are gone and while this generation is good, it might never hit the level of the previous set. They are still getting to understand themselves.
Spain started with Unai Simon in goal with Sergio Reguilon, Pau Torres, Sergio Ramos, and Sergi Roberto making up the backline. The midfield consisted of Fabian Ruiz, Mikel Merino, and Sergio Busquets. The forward line was Mikel Oyarzabal, Dani Olmo, and Ferran Torres. A traditional 433 was the chosen set up.
The Swiss chose to start with a 3 at the back set-up. The back 3 in front of Yann Sommer consisted of Ricardo Rodriguez, Manuel Akanji, and Nico Elvedi. Granit Xhaka and Remo Freuler made the sitting pivot with Edmilson Fernandes and Steven Zuber as the wing-backs. Xherdan Shaqiri played behind the two of Haris Seferovic and Breel Embolo.
The First Half
Both sides tried to show intention by playing out from the back. The first semblance of a chance fell to Ferran Torres who fired over in the 10th minute. Spain’s forward line keeps rotating but this does not put the Swiss off. A Shaqiri shot sails over the bar on 20 and 5 minutes later, a straightforward cross from Oyarzabal confuses Sommer. He holds it on the second try. 26 minutes into the game and the first goal arrives.
Embolo drags Ramos into midfield and leaves him for dead using pace after some good buildup play. His cut-back finds Remo Freuler who shoots on the in-step. Simon beaten, 1-0. There is a free-kick for a trip on Shaqiri with specialist Rodriguez to take. Simon tips the effort over the bar on 32. Fabian Ruiz drives towards the Swiss goal and fires but Sommer saves.
Spain continue to try to take advantage of Rodriguez’s lack of speed. Their final move was to fizz in low crosses. They got the better of the Swiss-Spanish defender sometimes but Manuel Akanji was proving stubborn to the low crosses. The Swiss also press very well and they limited the Spanish moves to very non-dangerous situations. Olmo who has been somewhat anonymous reverses a good ball to Oyarzabal who shoots but Sommer parries for a corner on 45. Roberto gets his head to the corner to set it up for Torres who can’t make a clean connection. Half time.
The Second Half
Some good buildup play by the Spanish team ends with Akanji who was imperious in this game. Spain decide to switch their buildup style with Pau Torres, Sergio Ramos, and Sergi Roberto giving the team a 3-man backline. This allows Reguilon to bomb forward.
Seferovic who has been a non-entity finally produces some good in the 50th minute. He shows good linkup play with Embolo. This allows the Monchengladbach man to get in behind but Simon reads it and comes out to gather. The next time Simon plays sweeper though, he does it headlessly. A ball over the top and he comes out to kick the ball away but instead he gifts Seferovic a chance. The striker took his time to get the shot unto his left before shooting. Ramos clears off the line. Alvaro Morata on for Fabian Ruiz.
Penalty to Spain on 57. Ramos heads a corner and it hits Rodriguez on the arm. Rodriguez isn’t even facing the ball so there is no hint of intention. Again, the new handball rule sucks. Up steps the willing Ramos but Sommer saves to his right after failing to take the bait of Ramos’ last step. At this point, Ramos is playing as a 2nd striker which he does a lot for Madrid. He climbs to head another cross but Sommer saves. The referee penalizes Ramos for climbing an opponent. Both sides show some good defending. Fernandes first as he cuts out a pass meant to Reguilon who snuck in behind the defense to set himself up for a cross. Pau Torres also puts in a magnificent challenge to cut out a Shaqiri outside-of-the-boot pass. The Spanish pressure is on and beginning to overwhelm the Swiss.
In the 66th minute, Zuber does well to turn away and direct a cross behind the Spanish defense but it is nowhere near Seferovic or Embolo despite the good work. A flurry of changes halts the game in the 72nd minute. Renato Steffen on for Shaqiri, Djibril Sow on for Zuber. Sergio Canales on for Olmo, Adama Traore on for Oyarzabal, and Koke on for Sergio Busquets who was nursing a knee injury from the first half.
In the 76th minute, Akanji put in another fantastic tackle, this time to halt the advancing Reguilon. On the 79, there is another penalty for Spain. Morata has put himself about since his introduction and he takes an awkward pass very well. In Elvedi’s desperation to stop a dangerous situation, he takes down Morata. A second yellow for the Monchengladbach defender, and a penalty given. Ramos steps up to take again.
Sommer is one of the best goalkeepers around. He was prepared for Ramos and his penalties. The Swiss goalkeeper knew that the last step for Ramos is always the most important as he looks to the direction of the keeper and goes the opposite way with his kicks. Sommer kept moving to throw him off despite staying on his line. In the end, Ramos could not get the chip or the placement that penalties require. Easy save for Sommer.
Gerard Moreno is on for Mikel Merino now, and on 83 Becir Omeragic replaces Seferovic. Morata cuts a good ball back but Fernandes is there to make sure the ball does not get to Moreno. After a period of Spain pressure in which Adama Traore was on the left and Torres was on the right, Luis Enrique switched both to their preferred position. Even though Torres played on the right for Valencia, he wanted to play on the left. Adama’s presence became effective.
In the 86th minute Adama put in a good cross but Sommer collected the cross. The next minute, he was at it again. This time he switched to his left to swing a deep cross. Ramos headed the cross back into danger but again Moreno could not connect. In the 90th minute though, Moreno connected. Reguilon was sent down the left and he played a rasping cross for Moreno to fire home.
Switzerland cannot catch a break. Heartbreak for a team that fought so well and so hard. Embolo for Mehmedi is the final change. Spain keep trying to get the winning goal. Ramos who is now playing centre-forward gets a loop on a header in the second minute of extra-time. Unfortunately for him, it loops over Sommer’s goal. Moments later Omeragic heads the ball clear. It was in search of Ramos. Game over.
A Cruel Game
Another game without a win for the Swiss while Spain continue their inconsistent form. They have 3 wins in their last 10. Not great form for a nation expected to be challenging for titles. This sets up an interesting winner-takes-all game against group leaders Germany. This UEFA Nations League is still a foreign concept but we must adapt. Die Mannschaft dispatched Ukraine thanks to a brace from Timo Werner and a goal from Leroy Sane. Tuesday will be a cracker!