Switzerland certainly silenced their critics as they came out on top in a five-goal thriller with Serbia to seal their place in the round of 16 and they can now look ahead to a battle with Portugal next Tuesday.
Questions were asked of Switzerland after their first two games with only one goal scored. For all the praise they were given for shutting out Cameroon and then frustrating Brazil for over 80 minutes, they didn’t look as bright going forward as expected heading into the tournament.
Whatever Murat Yakin worked on with his players ahead of their Serbia meeting, it certainly had an effect. The Red Crosses turned in their most threatening performance of the World Cup so far with three goals scored as they looked dangerous every time they burst forward. They played their part in an enthralling first half which saw both teams score twice - the last time that happened at the World Cup was when England played Argentina in 1998.
Forward Breel Embolo was able to get more involved against Serbia after a frustrating game against Brazil. He was able to use his pace to turn defenders and drive the ball forward but also hold it up well to bring his teammates into play. The Swiss attackers were all on the same wavelength when they got to the final third, as the link-up for their sublime third goal showed. Embolo, Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka, Remo Freuler were all exceptional and they will have a lot of confidence to take with them through to the last 16.
They say history has a habit of repeating itself and that is exactly what happened in this high-stakes match. Just like he did four years ago against Serbia at the last World Cup, Shaqiri once again got himself on the scoresheet. While his form at club level across his career has been turbulent, once he puts on a Swiss shirt you just know he’s going to deliver. His goal saw him join Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the only players to have scored at the last three tournaments.
Their lead didn’t last for very long, however, as a burst down the left from Serbia saw Dusan Tadic whip a cross into the path of Aleksandar Mitrovic and the towering forward was able to glance the ball into the far corner to level the scoreline. The Eagles started to advance further up the pitch to test the Swiss back line. Shaqiri came close to restoring his side’s lead but then he made a costly error. A loose pass from the wingeri set Serbia away and Dusan Vlahovic was able to roll an effort across goal leaving Gregor Kobel stranded.
The Red Crosses fought their way back into the match just before the break with Silvan Widmer finding Embolo at the far post with a low cross from the right, leaving the striker with the simplest of finishes to level the score once again. Yakin’s men came out the traps quickly after the break with Remo Freuler finishing off one of the most creative moves we have seen across the entire tournament. Not only did the Swiss show they have goals throughout the side with three different stars on the scoresheet, they demonstrated they can get creative which means that they shouldn’t be underestimated - especially after the way they stunned France at Euro 2020 18 months ago.
Even after regaining their lead, the Swiss continued to adventure forward but they made sure they were as defensively organised as they were for much of their encounter with Brazil to irritate Serbia. Newcastle United’s Fabian Schar did an excellent job filling in for Nico Elvedi alongside Manchester City’s Manuel Akanji, which highlights that there is quality in depth in Yakin’s squad.
Switzerland are excellent at maintaining their shape and we have seen that throughout their group stage campaign. And now that they have added more goals to their play, they could once again be set to upset a few of the big names in the knockout stage. Portugal had better get started on their homework for Tuesday.