European Under-21 Championship fact file – Switzerland
Despite not having the most coveted record in this competition to date – this is only the third time Switzerland has qualified for the European Under-21 Championship finals – Coach Pierluigi Tami is quietly confident about his exciting team which contains four of the Switzerland squad that won the Under-17 World Cup in Nigeria in 2009.
The most recognisable name in the squad is Xherdan Shaqiri, but Tami has been forced to charge through qualifying without his midfield creator when Shaqiri emerged as an increasingly important part of the senior national team. It is a situation that England fans will be all too familiar with as it mirrors the progress made by Jack Wilshere, yet senior Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld has stressed the importance of Shaqiri being exposed to this type of competition. The Basel teenager is the shiny ornament that takes pride and place on the Swiss footballing mantle. Granit Xhaka, Jonathan Rossini and Nassim Ben Khalifa are not far behind and all of them are among a total of nine players in the squad who have earned senior international caps.
Throughout qualification Switzerland was set up in a variety of ways, mainly as a reaction to having many of its better players escalated into the senior team. Moulding a method of play proved equally as important as results, but with system and personnel altering from game to game, Tami’s belief of how his side should play gradually perforated into his formations. Describing his preference for team play Tami said:“bravely in attack and compact in defence. I ask of my players that they are capable of adapting to variable systems. I want to see 11 people working in attack as well as defence.”
With Tami’s outfield ever-changing to quench the thirst of the senior team - Switzerland used a total of 35 players during qualifiers - the one constant is his goalkeeper. Yann Sommer played in all but one of his country’s qualifying games; saving a penalty in the play-off against Sweden his most telling contribution to date. Sommer’s calming influence is sure to benefit the youngest squad in the tournament.
In the matches where results were vital, none more so than Switzerland’s two-game playoff with Sweden, Tami deployed Fabien Frei in a shadow role behind the main striker, Ben Khalifa. Given Shaqiri’s penchant for penetrating space with his dribbling ability, it is a role that could see him return to the side, allowing Frei to revert to the right-sided berth he shared with Amir Abrashi in the earlier stages of the qualifying process. Should Shaqiri continue his development from a central position - his latest full caps have been earned away from the left wing where he began his career - then Switzerland’s mercurial talent has a platform from which to sparkle brighter than any of his team-mates.
Coach – Pierluigi Tami: A fixture of the Swiss production line who coached the Under-18 team before being promoted to his current role. Tami has combined both age-grade duties with assisting senior national coach Ottmar Hitzfeld.
One to watch - Xherdan Shaqiri: The FC Basel schemer is Switzerland’s most experienced and important player. His appearance against England last week was the latest of his eleven senior caps to date and his eye-catching goal against the same opposition in Basel showed what he is capable of.
Koch - Berardi - Rossini- Daprela
Frei - Wuthrich - Xhaka - Pavlovic