France will be hoping to book a place in the quarter-final of the UEFA Euro 2020 when they take on Switzerland in Bucharest on Monday night.
As the UEFA Euro 2020 hurtles towards its final stages, we have now learned the identities of four quarter-finalists already, with Denmark, Italy, Czech Republic and Belgium making their way through. Two more spots will be on the line on Monday, with Croatia facing Spain in the first offering before the attention shifts to Bucharest, where world champions France battle with Switzerland at the National Arena.
France came into the tournament as one of the favourites to go all the way. And the hard-fought 1-0 win over Germany in the Group F opener sounded out their intentions. But Les Bleus haven’t quite hit top gear since and were held to back-to-back draws by Hungary (1-1) and Portugal (2-2), although they ended up topping the Group of Death to secure a place in the knockout stages.
Switzerland, meanwhile, were off to an underwhelming start in Group A, playing a 1-1 draw with Wales before they were handsomely beaten by Italy 3-0, leaving them with all to do in their final game against Turkey. And, Vladimir Petkovic’s men rose to the occasion, winning 3-1 to finish third and earn a place in the Round of 16 as one of the four best third-placed teams.
This will be the first meeting in five years between France and Switzerland, with their last encounter – a group game in the UEFA Euro 2016 ending in a goalless draw. Ahead of this much-anticipated fixture heading our way from Bucharest, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
France have some roster issues to contend with ahead of this big contest as defender Lucas Digne is set to miss out after an injury against Portugal while Marcus Thuram is a major doubt, along with Jules Kounde. There is some positive news, though, as Lucas Hernandez, who was also injured in the Portugal clash, is expected to be fit and available, according to manager Didier Deschamps.
The world champions will set up in their usual 4-1-2-1-2 formation in front of goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris. The France skipper will be shielded by the solid defensive duo of Raphael Varane and Presnel Kimpembe, with Hernandez expected to start on the left. At right-back, Benjamin Pavard, who did not feature in the last game, ought to start, with the Bayern Munich star tasked with providing a constant attacking outlet on the flank.
Protecting the backline and harrying the opposition will be key man N’Golo Kante, who will occupy the base of the diamond formation in the centre of the park. On one side of him will be the man in form, Paul Pogba, looking to pull the strings from midfield, while Adrien Rabiot should replace Corentin Tolisso on the other side.
Antoine Griezmann will occupy the position at the tip of the diamond, where he will be assigned a free-roaming role to try and drag the Switzerland players out of position to create spaces for the strike partnership of Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema. Olivier Giroud will be an option from the bench for Deschamps.
Probable Lineup (4-1-2-1-2): Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Kimpembe, Hernadez; Kante; Pogba, Rabiot; Griezmann; Benzema, Mbappe
Unlike their opponents, Switzerland have a fully-fit squad as they look to pull off a major upset on Monday night. Manager Vladimir Petkovic will set his team up in a 3-4-1-2 formation, with the focus being on defensive discipline while looking to hit France on the counterattack.
Seasoned campaigner Yann Sommer will guard the goal for the Nati, shielded by a three-man backline comprising of Nico Elvedi, Manuel Akanji and the experienced Ricardo Rodriguez. The former AC Milan ace lining up as one of the three centre-backs would allow Steven Zuber to continue at left wing-back after he assisted three goals in the win over Turkey. Kevin Mbabu should replace Silvan Widmer on the opposite flank, however.
Granit Xhaka will have a crucial role to essay for Switzerland in the middle of the park in order to curtail the influence of Paul Pogba. The former Arsenal captain will have support from Remo Freuler, who will look to pressure the French midfielders to create turnovers while the creative onus will largely fall on the shoulders of key man Xherdan Shaqiri, operating in the No. 10 role.
The Liverpool ace looked in his elements in the win over Turkey and will be looking to build on that. Up top, the strike-partnership of Haris Seferovic and Breel Embolo is unlikely to be tinkered with by Petkovic.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Sommer; Elvedi, Akanji, Rodriguez; Mbabu, Freuler, Xhaka, Zuber; Shaqiri; Seferovic, Embolo
- This will be the 39th meeting between France and Switzerland. Of the previous 39, Les Bleus have won 16, while the Nati has picked up 12 victories (D10).
- France are currently on a ten-game unbeaten run across all competitions. However, they have failed to win their last two games.
- Switzerland haven’t been able to beat France in their last seven clashes (W3 D4). The last they prevailed against Les Bleus was in 1992 in a friendly encounter.
Player in Focus
Paul Pogba (France)
Without a doubt, Paul Pogba has been one of the best players on show in the UEFA Euro 2020 so far. The Manchester United superstar always seems to take his game up a notch when representing the national team. It has been no different here as he put on a stunning display of all-round midfield play against Germany before putting on another classy performance in the draw against Portugal.
Against a Switzerland side that is expected to put bodies behind the ball and defend deep, Pogba’s vision and ability to play those defence-splitting passes will once again be key to France’s chances on the night.
Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland)
Granit Xhaka will have a crucial role to play for Switzerland, especially if they are to keep Pogba quiet on the night. But another player whose influence will have a major say in how the game goes is Xherdan Shaqiri. After a slow start to the tournament, the Liverpool forward burst to life in the win over Turkey, scoring two glorious goals to lead his team to the knockouts.
Shaqiri’s zippy movement in the final third, his link-up play with someone like Breel Embolo and his knack for finding the back of the net from range could prove tricky for France to handle on the night. N’Golo Kante, perhaps, will be tasked with keeping a close watch on the Liverpool star.
France 1-0 Switzerland
France haven’t made the kind of start that was expected from them at the Euros but they have shown a resilient side to their game while the form of Paul Pogba and Karim Benzema bodes well for them. Switzerland, meanwhile, were played out of the park by Italy but showed what they are capable of in the win over Turkey, although they will be coming up against a much more formidable and airtight defence on Monday.
A cagey affair is likely to ensue at the National Arena in Bucharest, but given the quality of players that France have at their disposal, they should be able to bag another victory and advance to the next round.