Switzerland – Italy: Swiss can overwhelm inconsistent champions

Switzerland – Italy: Swiss can overwhelm inconsistent champions
Switzerland – Italy: Swiss can overwhelm inconsistent champions

Image of the article: Switzerland – Italy: The Swiss can overwhelm the inconsistent champion

Granit Xhaka hopes to lead Switzerland into the quarter-finals again

Italy do not seem to have the toughness of the team that won the 2020 European Championship and Kevin Hatchard believes their journey will end against Switzerland on Saturday night…

  • Swiss convincing against Germany

  • Italy narrowly manages a draw against Croatia

  • Switzerland is the best choice to reach the quarter-finals

  • Xhaka can score from distance

Switzerland vs ItalySaturday, June 29, 5:00 p.m.

Switzerland is building momentum at the right time

It is always fascinating how levels of success and performance can change within a tournament and sometimes even within a match. Switzerland swept Hungary in the first half of their opening match, taking an early 2-0 lead but then faltered in the second half of a nerve-wracking 2-1 win. In their second match against Scotland, Switzerland started and finished poorly but managed enough to earn a 1-1 draw.

Switzerland’s best performance by far was the match against Germany in Frankfurt. Coach Murat Yakin, who had gone into the tournament with criticism and doubts from others, hit the nail on the head with his line-up and tactics. He chose the quick Fabian Rieder for a three-man attack, who supported a furious pressing with his agility and hard work. Germany had a really hard time building from the back, and midfield lynchpin Toni Kroos was fouled three times.

That speed was useful in attack too (Bologna’s Dan Ndoye scored his first international goal and I’m sure he’ll score many more) and in defence the Swiss were simply superb, with Manuel Akanji and Fabian Schär particularly impressive. The goal that set them back in the 1-1 draw was almost unstoppable – David Raum’s inch-perfect cross was superbly headed home by super-sub Niclas Füllkrug.

Switzerland have qualified for the knockout phase at each of the last six major tournaments (France are the only other European team to do so) and at the last European Championship they caused a major upset at this stage by knocking France out – one of the most famous results in Swiss football history.

Right winger Silvan Widmer is suspended, so Leonidas Stergiou is expected to step in. Breel Embolo is expected to keep his place at centre-forward, while Ruben Vargas is pushing hard to replace Rieder in the front three. The unpredictable Xherdan Shaqiri – who scored a superb goal against Scotland – may once again be left out of the starting line-up.

Grumpy Spalletti knows Italy’s shot is not going right

Italy coach Luciano Spalletti can be a nice man, but if you cross him he’ll tell you so. The man who led Napoli to the Scudetto last year was forced to apologise for a downright rude answer to a question about the Azzurri’s deeply unconvincing 1-1 draw with Croatia. A result that secured their place in the last 16 but was only achieved by Mattia Zaccagni’s 98th-minute equaliser.

Spalletti criticised his team’s lack of quality at times, but more worryingly was their lack of fighting spirit, failing to win enough of the 50-50 challenges that can decide a match. It should be remembered that Italy had to recover from conceding a goal in the first minute to narrowly beat Albania, and were then crushed by Spain in one of the most one-sided 1-0 defeats in European Championship history.

In some ways, Italy’s slip-ups should not surprise us. They failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup and European champion coach Roberto Mancini jumped ship and headed to Saudi Arabia in August, leaving attack-minded veteran Spalletti to pick up the pieces.

Spalletti refuses to abandon his principles and adopt a more pragmatic approach, insisting he simply has to teach his players how to play football better. There have been some impressive performances – goalkeeper Gigio Donnarumma has been outstanding and roving centre-back Riccardo Calafiori has shown how he helped Bologna qualify for the Champions League this season.

Calafiori is suspended for this match, so Roma’s Gianluca Mancini could come in as a substitute. Spalletti must decide whether Gianluca Scamacca or Mateo Retegui should lead the centre-forward line, as neither of them has scored so far.

Swiss can move forward

I said in my Group A summary that Switzerland would be knocked out in the quarter-finals and I still believe that will be the case with England being their likely opponent in the quarter-finals. I believe Switzerland are the more solid team at the moment and they have players in form. Granit Xhaka can help win the midfield, the back line looks rock solid and there is plenty of pace in attack.

I am counting on Switzerland to qualify for 2.28.

Xhaka’s attack is likely to come from a distance

It could be argued that Granit Xhaka was Bayer Leverkusen’s most influential player as the team won the domestic double unbeaten, and towards the end of the season he developed a handy flair for scoring stunning long-range goals, including the winning goal in the DFB-Pokal final.

Xhaka has had a shot on goal in all three group matches so far and against Germany he beat Manuel Neuer from outside the penalty area.

If you look at the Player Shot specials at Betfair Sportsbook, you will see that you can bet on Xhaka to convert a shot on goal from outside the box into a chunky 3/1.

Read Kev’s preview of the Germany vs Denmark game here!

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