Progress report: Group A runners-up Switzerland
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Switzerland team reporter Matthew Howarth outlines what Vladimir Petković's men did well in qualifying for the round of 16 and where they need to improve.
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Switzerland's 0-0 draw with France on Sunday sealed the Nati's place in the knockout stage of a UEFA European Championship for the first time.
Vladimir Petković's side finished second in Group A behind the hosts, who were made to work hard for their point at the Stade Pierre Mauroy. Despite their encouraging display, the Swiss will need to raise their game to stand any chance of surviving beyond the last 16, where they will face the Group C runners-up.
EURO2016.com examines Switzerland's route to the knockout phase and highlights where they must improve.
How they got this far
Switzerland's progress was based chiefly on a resolute back line. Fabian Schär and Johan Djourou have shone at the heart of a defence expertly marshalled by goalkeeper Yann Sommer, who rescued his team with two superb stops against Albania and was deservedly named man of the match versus France.
At the time of writing, no player has completed more passes at the tournament than Granit Xhaka (283). The new Arsenal midfielder's overall contribution to the Swiss cause may go unnoticed at times, but he keeps Petković's side ticking while also providing a vocal presence in the middle of the park.
France fans might have expected their team to dominate possession in Lille, but that was not the case. Switzerland enjoyed 59% of the ball against Les Bleus, bringing their average for the finals so far to 58%. Only Germany, Spain and Portugal have a higher mean figure.
How they can go further
Score more goals
Petković said after Sunday's stalemate that his players have to be more clinical in the final third. Haris Seferović in particular has lacked composure in front of goal, missing three one-on-one chances against Albania and another two in the draw with Romania. Such profligacy will not go unpunished later in the competition.
Get more out of Shaqiri
Xherdan Shaqiri has had a quiet championship by his standards, registering just a solitary assist in the 1-0 victory over Albania. The 24-year-old winger was withdrawn on 79 minutes against France after an improved showing, but needs to continue that upward trend – for his sake as well as Switzerland's.
Keep faith with Embolo
Breel Embolo's potential is there for all to see. Quick, strong and technically gifted, the 19-year-old was a major nuisance for the French before tiring in the second half. The Basel forward will have learned a lot from his first start at a big tournament and will only get better with each passing fixture.