Switzerland seeking to write fresh history against Spain
Friday, 2 July 2021
Switzerland have beaten Spain just once in 22 meetings but showed against France that they are thrillingly capable of an upset.
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Switzerland wrote history once against France; now they want to pen a whole new chapter when they face Spain in Saint Petersburg on Friday.
Beating world champions France in a truly dramatic UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 tie was epic for the Nati. And they want to continue dreaming big.
However, Switzerland's record against Spain casts a shadow on their chances against the three-time European champions. The Swiss have managed just one victory in 22 games against La Roja, a remarkable 1-0 triumph at the 2010 FIFA World Cup that did not stop Spain from winning the whole thing. Other than that, five draws and 16 losses.
The two most recent fixtures, last autumn in the UEFA Nations League, yielded a 1-0 defeat in Spain and a 1-1 draw at home. "We know them; we played against them a few months ago," Granit Xhaka said. "But we need the same character, the same fighting spirit like [we showed] against France."
Indeed, that game has already changed a lot. Switzerland had never beaten France in a competitive match and nor had they ever progressed in a EURO knockout tie. In fact, they had not won a knockout game in any major tournament for 83 years. Their unforgettable night in Bucharest now means there's a before and after. That's how history works, after all.
Switzerland executed Vladimir Petković's plan against France, and we can expect them to do the same against Spain. A very organised Swiss side did well to control the France strikers, with two solid midfielders in Xhaka and Remo Freuler helping out the back three. They will surely employ a similar approach in Saint Petersburg, aiming to give as little space as possible to the Spain midfield.
Going forward, Switzerland have showed they pose a threat too. Haris Seferović excelled in the air against Les Bleus, meaning any set piece is a threat, while Kevin Mbabu and Mario Gavranović offered something different from the bench, the former with his pace on the right, the latter providing his killer instinct in front of goal.
With the wing-backs combining and serving the forwards, they could create trouble for Spain. And don't forget Xherdan Shaqiri – he will want to make an impact after a relatively quiet night against France.
Switzerland had a lot of pressure on them to progress from the group stage but, with that mission accomplished, they had nothing to lose against France. That put them in the best possible position mentally, and they will be in a comparable situation when they tackle La Roja – ideal for this group of players.
With the weight of expectation gone, the Nati showed exactly how much they wanted to win against France, displaying passion and character until the very end. Both Xhaka and Petković then issued a clear message: "We need a similar kind of match against Spain."
Providing Switzerland can do that, then their record against Spain is there to be challenged... and more history awaits to be written.