Switzerland will need at least a draw to secure their position in the Round of 16 phase of the World Cup as they face Costa Rica in their last Group E fixture.
Switzerland shocked the onlookers by overcoming a one-goal deficit against Serbia to register a win. Not only did the Swiss become the first nation at the 2018 FIFA World Cup to win from a losing position, but they also secured advantage over Serbia going into the final matchday of the Group Stage.
Serbia will be hoping Costa Rica can do some damage against Switzerland. Despite being tipped to be an outside chance to make it out of Group E, Costa Rica have failed to put any point on board and find themselves on their way out of the World Cup without scoring a single goal so far.
Bryan Ruiz & co. will hope to give a good account of themselves against Switzerland. But, Xherdan Shaqiri & and his men will be hoping to at least earn a draw, if not a win, over the Central American nation, in order to secure qualification to the next round. We run the rule over the two squads:
Team News & Tactics
Vladimir Petkovic is unlikely to make many changes to the starting eleven that featured in the comeback win over Serbia. The only player to have disappointed so far has been Haris Seferovic, who has been rather ineffective upfront for the Swiss side.
Expect Seferovic to be condemned to the bench. Petkovic should reward Mario Gavranovic with a start against Costa Rica. The player put in a spirited display after coming on against Serbia and should assume Seferovic’s role upfront.
Unlike other nations, Switzerland are a team that use their wingers to get the attempts on target, with the wide players taking up a position ahead of the central striker, who plays a tertiary role setting up the balls for the wingers to get on to.
With wingers moving towards the goal, the empty spaces are taken up by the fullbacks, who, in Stephan Lichtsteinger and Ricardo Rodriguez, are more than capable of putting in the desired balls and influencing the buildup and attack for Switzerland.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Sommer; Lichtsteiner, Schar, Akanji, Rodriguez; Behrami, Xhaka; Shaqiri, Dzemaili, Zuber; Gavranovic
Despite a tepid showing against Serbia, Oscar Ramirez did not pay heed to the warning signals and his aversion to changing the starting eleven, especially the front-line. The effect showed against Brazil, with them being unable to capitalize on the few chances that Brazil presented to them.
With the nation now officially out of the running for a place in the Round of 16, Ramirez should at least provide the players who had a bright cameo, with a chance to imprint their presence and showcase the skills in Russia.
Hence, we should see Joel Campbell start in attack, with Campbell likely to be Ruiz’s partner in crime just behind Marcos Urena. It might very well be a toss-up between Venegas and Urena. But, the former did pick up a knock against Brazil and while he is declared fit for the game, Ramirez should go for Campbell in his stead.
Campbell’s pace alongside Ruiz’s technical guile will prove to a different threat.
The only other change that could happen will be on the left side of the 4-man midfield. Bryan Ovieda has failed to have much of an impact and this could present a start for Franisco Calvo.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Navas; Acosta, Gonzalez, Duarte; Gamboa, Borges, Guzman, Calvo; Ruiz, Campbell; Urena
1. Should Costa Rica lose against Switzerland, this will be only the second event where they will exit a tournament from their Group stage without any point, the only other case being at the 2006 World Cup.
2. Costa Rica have a woeful recent record at the World Cup, with no wins in their last 5 World Cup matches, having not troubled the scoreboard in 4 of those.
3. Switzerland are unbeaten in their last 4 games at the World Cup against CONCACAF sides, with their last match ending in a win over Honduras at the 2014 World Cup.
4. Vladimir Petkovic is the only manager is Switzerland football team’s history to have a >50% win rate as the head coach of the National Team. (26 wins out of 42 matches)
5. Xherdan Shaqiri can move within 1 goal of Josef Hugi, who is the highest goalscorer for Switzerland at the World Cup (6 goals).
Player to Watch
The focus of Costa Rica’s defence will be on Xherdan Shaqiri. This is where Switzerland would hope Steven Zuber continues his impressive showing on Wednesday. Zuber will have to be up to the task lest the Swiss attack become right-heavy.
With Zuber likely to have a lot of space and not a lot of eyes on him, his impact might just end up being the most effective against Costa Rica, as was the case against Brazil. The 26-year-old had a mediocre season at club level with Hoffenheim, but if he continues this rich vein of form at the World Cup, he could be in for a rise in stature.
Switzerland 2-1 Costa Rica
We feel Joel Campbell’s introduction alongside Bryan Ruiz will add some teeth and much-needed pace to the Costa Rica attack, especially when on a counter. Switzerland though, are unlikely to push too hard either, with the nation only needing a draw to book their place in the Round of 16.
Expect Costa Rica to be the first one to score and send shockwaves in Russia and within the Swiss camp. But, Switzerland have already shown they can produce comebacks in the two games so far and should be capable of producing another on Wednesday.
We expect the Swiss to not only qualify but, perhaps even register a narrow win over Costa Rica to top Group E.