Feature | An experienced Switzerland side stands between France and qualification for the quarter-finals

So far, so good. France’s U21 squad have managed two wins in as many games, despite performances arguably being below par.  This has also been a pattern for Ripoll’s teams since he took over six years ago.

As Georgia impress at home, and favourites England and Spain roll through their usual game plans, something is not quite cutting it for France. Norway were a weaker opposition compared to Italy on Sunday, yet Les Bleuets were not capable of taking the game by the scruff of the neck and producing anything of value. Thankfully, Amine Adli was up to the task, showing his technicity and his talent throughout the game. Close to the hour mark, he delivered a dangerous ball into the box, which Michael Olise converted at the far post. Unfortunately, the Crystal Palace winger had to come off with an injury a few minutes later, meaning he is out for the rest of the tournament.

Leading Group D is positive for France, but they’ll need a final point to confirm this spot. This could still be a chance for Ripoll to try new players, by starting Rayan Cherki for example, having been a second-half sub in both games so far. Adli or Elye Wahi might be tried up front, with Kalimuendo starting both games and expecting maybe a rest before the quarter-finals.

Nonetheless, Switzerland will be no pushovers and they will have everything to play for. While it seems unlikely, a victory against France and Italy dropping points in the other game could enable the Swiss to join their neighbours in the next round. They’ll have to perform better than against Italy. Poor marking and clumsy defending gave the Italians a 3-0 advantage at the break. Even though the Swiss scored twice in the opening six minutes of the second half, the damage was already done.

That being said, this team has potential. Get French Football News spoke to Antoine Pecchia, who closely follows the Swiss league and national teams.

We first go back in time. Their first qualification came only in 2002 when they hosted the tournament, in which they went all the way to the semi-final. They have qualified four times since, their best result remains a final in 2011, in which they had the youngest squad, only losing out to Spain.

This current squad is not only experienced at youth level, many of the players having been together at previous editions of this tournament, but also experienced at senior level. Eight players in the squad have senior caps, including three who went to the Qatar World Cup back in November 2022 (Ardon Jashiri, Fabian Rieder and Zeki Amdouni).

The squad has experience together, it has experience at the highest level and did really well in qualifying. Placed with The Netherlands, against whom they lost their only game, they finished with the best total for a second-placed team in qualification. While the tournament began well with a win against Norway, the result against Italy put a spanner in the works of the Swiss Federation (ASF), which is aiming to qualify for the Olympic Games in Paris next summer. France being the host nation and England playing under Team GB, the three other best teams of the tournament will qualify for the Olympics. Switzerland will need a lot of luck to get through this phase, particularly as they have been far below their usual level for 135 minutes of this tournament, only waking up in the second half against Italy, underlines Antoine.

Who are Switzerland’s biggest threats?

Leonidas Stergiou (FC St. Gallen): “Captain of Patrick Rahmen’s team, he has already been involved in the 2021 edition of this U21 tournament, in which Switzerland had finished third in their group behind Portugal and Croatia. A key element at club level, he is just as important for the U21s (14 caps) and has even played for the senior squad, with a single cap. Linked with a move to Germany or Turkey, he should be on many clubs’ radars this summer. A good Euros should open the door to a top European side”.

Ardon Jashari (FC Luzern): “He is probably one of the best players in the Swiss Super League. Captain of his club at only 21 years old, he is on many clubs’ radars. Last year, he chose to stay an extra year to progress. Brought by Murat Yakin to Qatar, he is already a very good number six: intelligent, and comfortable with the ball at his feet. Zakaria or Xhaka could soon have some competition in their position!”

Zeki Amdouni (FC Basel): “It is impossible not to talk about the Swiss U21 team without speaking about their star player, the future top striker for Switzerland, Zeki Amdouni. He was incredible in the second part of the season 2022/2023, at club and international level, becoming essential and irreplaceable at club level. With Basel, he scored 22 goals and five assists, while he scored five in as many games for the senior international team. A future star in the making. He is the player to follow during these Euros”.

While it will be hard for the Swiss to rival with France, the latter having a far better squad from an individual perspective, as well as the Swiss showing a true lack of coherence so far in the tournament, everything is on the table. France are disorganised, lacking in creativity and the finishing touch. We certainly didn’t expect Georgia to do so well in their tough group. Whilst France are on the verge of securing a ticket through to the quarter-finals, Switerzland will be clinging to the faintest hope of securing their own progression to the knock-out phases. 

GFFN | Tom Abadie

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