Granit Xhaka leads Switzerland who are aiming to reach last-16 third time running – predicted line up and stats

MURAT YAKIN will be hoping that his men make it to the knockout stages for a third consecutive time, after reaching the Round of 16 in the last two editions of the World Cup.

They have a competitive group that consists of African giants Cameroon, Serbia and big favourites Brazil.

With a decent squad at their disposal, Switzerland will be hoping to exceed expectations in this tournament. 

Predicted starting XI

There are a couple of obvious choices from each department.

After Yann Sommer’s injury in the Bundesliga, it remains unclear whether or not he’ll be ready for the tournament.

Therefore, Dortmund’s Gregor Kobel is likely to be their number one. 

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In front of him, the obvious defenders would be Ricardo Rodriguez and Manuel Akanji together with Kevin Mbabu, Silvan Widmer, Nico Elvedi and Fabian Schär are also expected to make it into the final squad.

Among the midfielders, Granit Xhaka is going to be their main man. Freuler and Djibril Sow will be partnering him.

The other options could be Denis Zakaria who is also expected to make the squad.

The attacking department will be spearheaded by Breel Embolo while other viable options include Haris Seferovic, Ruben Vargas and Noah Okafor. 

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How the Swiss could line up in Qatar


Attacking Phase

Switzerland are not a very dominant team when it comes to playing with possession. 

They tend to use the long ball very often and at the same time, they don’t play many progressive passes.

Even when they play long balls they don’t look to play it quickly due to their conservative approach. 

Most of their chances come from crosses with the likes of Rodriguez and Widmer delivering dangerous balls from out wide.

In most situations, Switzerland look to play the ball out from the back by inviting the opposition to press.

Switzerland’s centre backs split as the goalkeeper helps the backline

Their shape is typically a 4-1-4-1, with Xhaka staying deeper in case of defensive turnovers and Freuler pushing forward next to Djibril Sow in attacking midfield. This helps to stretch the defence horizontally.

Xhaka’s importance to the team is huge; during their attacking phase, his positioning and ability to find players in space is crucial for Switzerland to move into the final third.

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A passing lane is created for a forward to receive the ball when a midfielder drops deep

We know they are very conservative on the ball. So Xhaka’s ability to progress the ball for them is very important to their attack.

We can see him dropping as a centre-back in lots of situations. This means that the player marking him has to commit forward leaving space behind him. 

The likes of Shaqiri can benefit from these sequences as he can drop into these central regions and drive forward.

Attacking players can benefit from this tactic and drive forward centrally

If they want to progress past the group stage against Brazil, Serbia and Cameroon, they need to get their attack firing at their best.

Their ability to get the most out of the likes of Embolo and Ruben Vargas will be crucial to their attack succeeding on the big stage.

Defensive Phase

Switzerland are less intense in pressing, but have conceded very few goals overall as they block the shots very well and Yann Sommer has done a good job of preventing goals. 

Switzerland deploy a ball-oriented pressing structure where they look to overload the ball side in most instances and try to force a turnover. 

The issue with this form of pressing is that it leaves a lot of space for the opposition on the far side and that can cause a lot of issues.

An example of that is given below where Switzerland has a lot of players committed to the ball side but have left huge space in front of the defence.

Switzerland’s ball-oriented press can leave a huge space in front of the defence

In their low block, they maintain a 4-4-2 system which is not that unusual.

They can transition into this shape quickly from the 4-2-3-1 and this formation also ensures quick counter-attacks are always a possibility. 

In a low-block Switzerland maintain a 4-4-2 system

Transitions

They use a similar set of principles even during transitions.

An example of this can be seen below where the Swiss players are tracking backwards while having the right body orientation so that Spain’s attackers don’t have the right options to pass or make runs into. 

Swiss stars track backwards and cut out Spain’s attackers passing and runs

During an offensive transition, Switzerland generally look to commit just their three forward players to the counter-attack.

By doing this, all three players are moving towards the centre instead of the wingers staying wide. 

With the likes of Embolo, Vargas and Okafor, Switzerland has several offensive players providing very good acceleration and high speed. An example of this can be seen in the image below.

Switzerland are blessed with pace offensively

With the pace and power from the likes of Embolo, Okafor and Vargas along with Xhaka and Sow providing creativity for them, Switzerland look to be a very threatening team on the break. 

Attackers

Overall, Switzerland have a decent attack with some exciting young talents and a couple of experienced campaigners.

The only concern is that they do not have forwards in their definite peak period with all the options either entering their peak or just leaving it, including Embolo who should be the regular striker.

Midfielders

Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka is their key progressor of the ball. Closely following him behind is Remo Freuler who has also seemed to be a good progressor for his club, Nottingham Forest. 

Zakaria, one of the most highly-rated defensive midfielders in world football, is not very progressive with possession. 

He does pretty well in finding teammates with progressive passes but does not record a lot of passes into the final third. Along with them, Djibril Sow will probably start. 

Defenders

Overall, Switzerland’s defensive department is stacked with some experienced faces and they have a variety of options available apart from Akanji and Rodriguez who are expected to be sure starters. 

Key Player

Despite having the likes of Embolo and Akanji in the squad, Granit Xhaka will be their key player and probably their best player going into the tournament.

While Arsenal under Mikel Arteta had a turbulent 2021-22 season, the Swiss was one of the low-key best performers at the club. 

And again in 2022-23, Xhaka provides outstanding performances.

Overall, his positives completely outweigh his certain negatives and the stats show why Xhaka is probably the best Swiss player going into the tournament.

Switzerland would be expecting him to be at his best for them to qualify and make it into the knockout stages.

Tournament prediction

With Brazil in their group, Switzerland would be the second favourite ahead of Cameroon and perhaps Serbia to qualify from their group into the next stage. 

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They will probably fight with the Serbians for the 2nd place in this group, and depending on what happens in Group H, they may have a chance to qualify for the quarter-finals. 

For even more detailed analysis of all 32 teams in the FIFA World Cup 2022, download your copy of the November Total Football Analysis magazine here

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