When Switzerland beat Iceland 2-0 on Wednesday, they became the only team in the UEFA Under-21 Championship finals to win both of their opening games. Pierluigi Tami’s side have got ‘one foot in the semi-finals’ but midfielder Granit Xhaka has refused to look any further than the third group game against Belarus.
Eighteen-year-old Xhaka has provided a steely strength to Switzerland’s midfield in their two games so far in the competition and refused to be drawn on discussion of potential last four opponents when he spoke to uefa.com
The midfielder will make only his fourth Under-21 appearance if he features against Belarus but he has been quick to strike up a formidable partnership with Fabian Frei in the Swiss engine room. Frei, a club-mate of Xhaka, scored in the opening minute against Iceland and after the match he made sure to keep the focus on the next game. “I got an assist and even scored a goal, so that’s just magnificent. We can look back on tonight with a smile and if we haven’t qualified, then we will seal it at the weekend. The result is good.”
Much of Switzerland’s success so far has been credited to their creative star Xherdan Shaqiri although the 19 year-old has refused to be singled out as Switzerland’s star player: “We have many good players with lots of potential and you can say that some of them are the best players at this championship,” deflected Shaqiri when he spoke to uefa.com at the team’s base in Hobro. “We are the only side who have yet to concede and this shows that we are not only strong in attack but also in defence.” The stocky, skilful playmaker is set to be courted by a string of top clubs across Europe once his tournament finishes and he will hoping that doesn’t come before June 25 – the day of the tournament final, exactly a year on from when Shaqiri made an appearance for Switzerland in the World Cup.
Switzerland currently sit top of the group from Denmark and Belarus knowing if they avoid defeat a last four place will be theirs. Should they lose by two or more goals on Saturday evening and Denmark beat Iceland, then Switzerland will be heading home from Denmark on Sunday morning – meaning the whole party are under no illusions how important the game is. In a complicated twist, Switzerland and Denmark could have their fate settled by the drawing of lots. If Switzerland lose 2-1 and Denmark win 2-0 the two teams would be split according to their fair play ranking for the tournament so far. If their fair play rankings prove to be equal, it will come down to the luck of the draw.